ATLANTA, GA — The legislative defeat of the American Health Care Act unleashes the path to a real solution for guaranteed healthcare for all. Defense of Medicaid remains essential for the class unity necessary to go on the offensive for improved Medicare for All and a universal public healthcare system.
Democrats and Republicans alike have battered the vestiges of a healthcare safety net for decades. On the one hand, the ACA subsidized the private insurance industry without disallowing explosive premiums and unaffordable deductibles. On the other hand, the Medicaid expansion under Obama’s healthcare law was the first time that health insurance was provided on the basis of low-income, unrestricted by health or age status.
Today Medicaid covers 74 million Americans. Surpassing even Medicare, it is the largest single insurance in the U.S. Over 11 million people with incomes at or below 133% of poverty account for more than half of the enrollment in the ACA. Trump’s 2018 budget proposes to cut Health and Human Services by 16%. HHS Secretary Price’s tremendous regulatory powers already encouraged governors to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients and dilute ‘essential benefits’ like emergency room coverage and maternity care. These changes threaten everyone’s fragile health security, especially those on Medicaid.
What is striking is how many people have qualified for this insurance despite the refusal of 19 States to expand Medicaid. Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Carolina alone make up 64% of the poor in the ‘coverage gap.’ They are part of the 29 million, including the undocumented and many immigrants who remain uninsured. The explosion in Medicaid and the uninsured corresponds to the drastic decline in employment-based health coverage to less than 50% of the insured. The defeat of the repeal of the ACA does not change that reality.
The highly disruptive process of ‘repealing and replacing’ the ACA has made it abundantly clear that the government is the only entity with the power to guarantee healthcare. ‘Replacement’ efforts that relied on shunting responsibility for healthcare to states, ran into a buzz-saw of corporate interests feeding at the trough of public funding for health programs.
The road to universal healthcare requires the elimination of the private insurance industry and necessitates the public ownership of healthcare resources. Any health system based in capitalist market principles whether extreme or ‘regulated’, runs counter to achieving universal, equitable and comprehensive healthcare.
People are in the streets and town hall meetings demanding healthcare and not corporate care. Defense of the status quo is not enough. The millions on Medicaid alone compel the distribution of healthcare based on need and not money. Its time to stop the bleeding from a thousands cuts. Improved Medicare for All is a step toward a national truly public and comprehensive delivery system of healthcare for all!