Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
When I was 11, I woke up with pain on my right side. We drove to my pediatrician, who said it was probably nothing; however, he told us to go to the emergency room just in case. After a CT scan, surgery to remove my appendix and three days of recovery, I was back to normal. This begs the question: What would have happened if I weren’t fortunate enough to have health insurance?
Without insurance, I likely wouldn’t have had a regular pediatrician to see. I probably would have had to wait until the pain got worse before being forced to go to the emergency room. It’s possible my appendix would have burst. Instead of a simple operation, I would have faced a serious medical condition that could have had lasting implications.
A study published in 2011 followed individuals who recently gained access to Medicaid. After one year, these individuals reported better health outcomes — both mental and physical — and lower amounts of medical debt. The American Health Care Act currently being debated in Congress seeks to take away health care from millions of Americans. The House version of the bill is estimated to take away insurance from 23 million, and the Senate bill is expected to reduce coverage by 22 million.
We know that health insurance improves health and can save lives. So how can we justify taking that away from 23 million people for a tax break and possible reduction in health care premiums? Are we saying that our money is worth more than their health? That health is a commodity and not a right?
The American Health Care Act would have a lot of effects on the health care market. This bill could leave individuals with pre-existing conditions uninsured by forcing them into separate, incredibly expensive insurance markets. At a certain cost, the insurance would be completely unaffordable, and these individuals would be left without coverage. We all know someone with a pre-existing condition. Anyone with cancer, diabetes, heart disease or any number of other ailments could see a huge increase in health care costs, or have to pay out-of-pocket for their care.
Additionally, this legislation would allow states to choose what benefits they mandate insurance companies to cover. This could result in loss of coverage of maternity care, mental health and substance abuse treatment. Are we going to make mothers choose between crippling debt and poor care for their unborn children? And how can we expect people with mental illnesses and addiction to get better if they cannot afford care?
Further, both versions of the bill defund Planned Parenthood. Without getting into the abortion debate, taking money from Planned Parenthood has no effect on abortion funding. Yes, Planned Parenthood performs abortion. Yes, the federal government funds Planned Parenthood. However, federal law does not allow for the direct funding of abortions. Planned Parenthood receives outside funding for abortions, and uses federal funds for all its other functions, such as cancer screenings. Thus, by defunding Planned Parenthood, the GOP is seeking to remove a cheap and accessible source of care that already does not receive federal funding to conduct abortions.
This bill is a huge tax break for the wealthy. President Trump and the Republican Party have again proven that their interests are aligned with the wealthiest Americans, not the majority. They have now shown they are willing to sacrifice the health of millions of poor and struggling Americans to benefit the rich. How can this be disputed when Trump called the House version “mean” after previously throwing his full support behind its passage? Yes, Mr. Trump, the bill is mean. So, why are you pushing for it?
The Affordable Care Act did raise taxes and health insurance premiums. These are real problems, and Congress must act to solve them. However, if the solution to increased costs is to sacrifice 23 million Americans’ right to access health care, then we cannot tout ourselves as the nation that supports everyone’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Trump has proven that “Trumpcare” is an inappropriate name for the American Health Care Act. He has clearly demonstrated that he does not care.
Mitchell Rock is a senior government and politics and physiology and neurobiology major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.