A health care forum Saturday in Bowie, Maryland, also became a rally to encourage relatives, friends and others nationwide to fight for the Affordable Care Act.
The discussion at Greater Mt. Nebo AME Church, led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), was spurred by the June 22 unveiling of the GOP Senate’s proposal to repeal and replace the ACA, also known as Obamacare.
The GOP proposal includes deep cuts to Medicaid, the repeal of most of the tax increases promised by the ACA, and the authorization for states to opt out of currently mandated insurance requirements.
Van Hollen said the Senate bill, similar to one passed by the House last month, also provides tax cuts to affluent Americans. He also stressed to the several hundred people in attendance that out of the 52 Republican senators on Capitol Hill, only three need to reject the GOP bill, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sought to bring to the floor this week for a vote before deciding to delay it.
“These health care proposals are very bad for America. They are really about wealth-care,” Van Hollen said. “In the coming days, [tell] anybody you know, in any state in the country … [to] call their senators from these other states and tell them to do the right thing.”
Health care professionals told attendees at church stories of how some patients who can’t afford quality insurance now must either choose between paying for medication and their rent.
Leana Wen, commissioner of health for Baltimore City, recalled when she worked as an emergency physician to treat a man who went into a coma after a grand mal seizure for nearly two hours. If the man had adequate health insurance, he may still be alive, she said.
“I think about his family … and why we need health care and why we need insurance,” said Wen, who has worked in the city for 2½ years. “We treat people at a time when they are unconscious and they’re dying, but what kind of system is it that doesn’t allow us to treat people before they get so sick?”
George H. Bone, who practices internal medicine at Doctor’s Community Hospital in Lanham, offered some advice: eat right, hang with positive people and “when [elected officials] call on you for help, you have to show up.”
President Donald Trump and other Republicans have said the ACA remains too costly for insurance companies to provide coverage for millions of Americans. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the House’s health care bill would reduce the federal deficit by $119 million, but Americans who reside in states that request waivers from health requirements would pay more out of pocket.
The CBO also estimates about 23 million Americans would lose health coverage by 2026, which doesn’t sit well with Donna Pressley, whose mother suffered from congestive heart failure and died at age 92.
“I’m really, really, really worried about the health care proposal and how it would affect Medicaid,” said Pressley, who retired as an administrator from D.C. Public Schools. “Heart failure is a part of my family, so health insurance is very important for myself and others to have.”