Another recent attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, met with failure as the American Health Care Act of 2017 never got wings.
The Congressional Budget Office report revealed this faulty revision might leave those at the edge of the cliff dangling by a health-care thread.
Many members of Congress faced a difficult voting decision: Stay aligned with the president and the party, or assure their constituents continue to have health care. Some politicians apparently were even threatened with falling from grace of their supporters.
For congressional Representative Steve Knight in our district, almost 77,000 receive insurance through Obamacare, while the CBO assessment of the new law revealed potential jeopardy accessing care.
Here is the letter I wrote to Congressman Knight:
I am a physician in Santa Clarita for almost 30 years and have not been a strong supporter of Obamacare. But for many of our residents, it has given them insurance they would not have had.
The American Health Care Act still needs work, but we cannot leave our local citizens without coverage. This will place an undue burden on the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital emergency room and could result in another bankruptcy. Our community cannot afford this.
I believe the CBO is very close on its assessments so we must be cautious in our haste for repeal. The warning signs are there for a disaster, and your vote must be carefully considered evaluating the pros and cons of this bill.
As a physician, I weigh risks and complications daily in medical decision-making. The consequence, though, is only on an individual basis. This vote will clearly effect the CBO estimates, but also many rippling side-effects will take place in such a drastic change.
I do not believe your constituents will falter in their support of you if you carefully take the time analyzing this problem.
Congressman Knight did not need to commit to a a vote as the American Health Care Act was withdrawn from the House floor without a vote March 24, leaving Obamacare intact. But there are still ways Congress can financially undermine Obamacare and render it ineffective.
How? Government funding subsidies to insurance companies can be cut off by the Trump administration, and should this occur, Congress may vote not to retain them.
Insurance companies would then either withdraw from the exchanges or will be forced to increase premiums to those who already cannot afford them.
This would successfully cut the financial umbilical cord, depriving low-income Americans from adequate health care. These patients then would not have access to doctors or clinics, once again overwhelming emergency rooms for medical assistance.
By law, hospitals like Henry Mayo cannot refuse to treat (or transfer) uninsured or indigent patients, and not surprisingly, taxpayers must pay this bill (Emergency Medical and Treatment Labor Act – EMTLA – 1986).
America is unique in allowing health care to be dictated by a free-market economy. Many citizens are being inundated by rising premiums and deductibles, inability to have a choice of physician or hospital, and high medical bills resulting in bankruptcy or foreclosure of their homes.
Without appropriate health care, we as a nation cannot compete with other countries in the world marketplace. Therefore these congressional votes are critical to our survival.
Decisions by our representative are wrought with risks and complications. Let’s make sure our congressman is held accountable to his 77,000 affected constituents, taxpayers, and the people he serves.
Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D.