Trumka urges lawmakers: Keep Affordable Care Act

WASHINGTON —With the GOP-run House and Senate speeding towards their first steps to dismantle the Affordable Care Act – with nothing available to replace it – AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a special letter to lawmakers urging them not to do so.

Trumka wasn’t the only prominent leader to try to stop the quick-moving anti-ACA train. The labor-backed Alliance for Retired Americans held a press conference with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Jan. 12 to denounce the GOP moves.

But that confab won’t stop the ruling Republicans from jamming through a budget “reconciliation” bill, the first step in dismantling the comprehensive health care law. The measure orders congressional committees to start drafting legislation to trash the ACA.

At 1:05 am on Jan. 12, the Senate passed its reconciliation bill, 51-48. Only one Republican, Ron Paul of Kentucky, voted “no,” while Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was absent. Everyone else, including the two independents who caucus with the Democrats, voted along party lines. Meanwhile, the House Democrats have little power to affect action there.

That didn’t stop Trumka from declaring that dismantling the ACA would be a disaster.

“I hope you will change your direction on health care,” Trumka wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent.  Past Republican “replacement” proposals, Trumka added, “embody a cut-and-run approach” with the federal government dumping responsibility for paying for health care onto workers, retirees and state and local governments.

Specifically, he said:

• Repealing the ACA, even with a “transition period,” would cause the individual insurance market – for people whose employers don’t cover them – “to collapse.” And major past GOP “replacement” plans put the responsibility for paying more for health services and prescription drugs directly on workers and consumers, while giving them only an inadequate “voucher” to use to buy insurance.

• While trashing coverage, the GOP health care plans increase taxes imposed on workers and firms, Trumka said. That would harm 178 million people, he pointed out.

Trumka noted both congressional Republicans and economists they cite say that doing so “would drive employers to cut back on health benefits” by increasing workers’ and retirees’ out-of-pocket expenses. The real impact, he added, would be firms dropping health care coverage, workers and retirees doing without it, or forgoing needed care, or all of those results.

• A Medicare voucher plan, which Ryan pushed in his past post as House Budget Committee chairman, “would leave beneficiaries to fend for themselves in hopes that ‘market forces’ would reduce costs.”  That’s unlikely, Trumka predicted. Instead, “Prominent Republican plans suggest that smaller ‘modernization’ reforms may occur first, that would increase seniors’ out-of-pocket costs, in an effort to reduce” their use of medical services.

• Turning Medicaid into a state-run block grant for care, would hurt the nation’s nursing home residents, since the federal program pays the nursing homes for most of their care. The block grant would force the states to cut the aid to those patients and to the poor, who also get Medicaid, Trumka said.

Other unions joined the call to preserve the ACA. The Service Employees produced a video entitled “We Can’t Afford To Lose Our Health Care” and urged its members to show it to their lawmakers. “We need care, not chaos,” the union said.

“If members of Congress, CEOs, governors and other elected officials are now emboldened to go after workers’ rights and protections, and critical programs like Medicare and Social Security, it is the labor movement that will stand in the way and stand up for millions of working families,” the Communications Workers vowed. “Together with our allies, we will resist.” (Their emphasis.)

Besides the press conference with Pelosi, the Alliance for Retired Americans wants its three million members to flood the White House switchboard with pro-Medicare, pro-Social Security phone calls on Jan. 23, just after GOP President-elect Donald Trump takes over.

Some alliance members are already lobbying their lawmakers. Texan Marian Edson reported on the ARA’s blog that “I’ve already called my representative, Lamar Smith” – who’s a Republican – “and told him hands off my Medicare and Social Security. I am told that Rep. Smith is against cutting current benefits. I am in shock, but happy for that. But I still have to talk to the mean Texas senators.”  They’re Republicans: John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Source: PAI