Opinion: American Health Care Act—The high price of inaction

Teresita Batayola May 18, 2017 0

Thu Ngo takes the pulse (and blood pressure) of the Asian American community at International Community Health Services (ICHS). • File Photo

It’s not business as usual for International Community Health Services (ICHS). Until last year, our rallying cause was health care for all, advocating expansion to those who were not included in the Affordable Care Act.

As a community trust, ICHS was born of the vision of local founders from the Asian American community, who saw a basic, aching need for health care. They scraped together resources and pulled together volunteers to serve our elders and to advocate for their right to be served.

Today, our community’s trust in ICHS mandates a larger responsibility to speak, act, and fight against those who wish to diminish our gains. We must speak out when those with existing illnesses or pre-existing conditions lose guaranteed affordable and comprehensive health care coverage. We must act when older people can be charged up to five times more than younger people. We must fight when states can decide not to cover essential benefits like doctor visits, maternity and prenatal care, hospitalization, prescriptions, mental health and ambulance rides.

International Community Health Services CEO Teresita Batayola. • Courtesy Photo

The U.S. House of Representatives’ hurried passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) did not have the benefit of the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis. But we know that this bill is built on the original version that rolls back Medicaid and subsidized health plans for the working poor, and that 24 million nationally stand to lose coverage within a decade. Up to 100,000 Washingtonians risk losing their private health care insurance and another 600,000 risk losing their coverage under Apple Health, our state Medicaid program. Washington State will potentially lose $1.4 billion a year. The loss of this funding means healthcare cuts for our most vulnerable populations.

When AHCA was pulled back from a vote in early March, many pronounced it dead. Less than a week ago, AHCA lived. It did not rise from the ashes like a phoenix, but from the grave like a zombie, an undead created at the cost of human lives. Many say that it will have a tough time in the Senate. It will take a long time to get a vote and that it will be much altered for the better.

Never underestimate the determination of those who push back against health care as a right. They are counting on us to be too tired of too many fights, to be too cynical and too quick to dismiss

We must find a way to persevere. Let’s keep our attention on the poor, the elderly, women and others who are at risk. We must protest and act in all ways—marches, social media, emails, letters, and phone calls to our senators, but especially to our families, friends and networks in other states to do the same and make an impact on their U.S. senators. AHCA is a line of defense we must win.

For it isn’t just health care. Executive orders, administrative actions, budgets, legislation, and hate speech and actions target immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, LGBT, poor people, women and labor. Few are exempt.

Now more than ever, we must speak, act, resist, insist and persist. We must stand together, support each other, and when one is tired, help raise each other up. To do otherwise, comes at too high a cost to the health of our people and our community.

Teresita Batayola is the CEO of International Community Health Services.

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