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We Must Be Vigilant on Health Care

by Jesse Berney  |  February 15, 2017

We Must Be Vigilant on Health Care Kristie Kennett, nurse and member of AFSCME District Council 89

AFSCME members see the health care system from both sides. Nurses, nursing aides, hospital administrators, home care workers – these are our sisters and brothers on the front lines caring for all of us. Public service workers know how important our public health care system is to keeping our communities healthy and strong.

AFSCME members have a special interest in ensuring that the programs that help millions of Americans afford health care coverage are kept strong and intact. Programs like the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Medicare are critical to keeping the people we serve healthy. Many AFSCME members also rely on these programs for their own health care, especially Medicare.

But these programs are in real danger and big cuts are possible in the coming years, months, and even weeks. 

Last Friday, Tom Price was sworn in as the new secretary of Health and Human Services. AFSCME members should keep a close eye on the actions of his department, the Trump White House and congressional leaders to ensure that they protect the health care programs that we and the people we serve rely on.

Cuts to these programs would have a direct impact on AFSCME members. For example, while most AFSCME members enjoy employer-provided health care coverage, the Affordable Care Act raises standards of care for everyone. It allows children to stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26 and ensures that all preventive care and checkups are available with no copays. And it prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions.

A repeal of ACA, especially without a serious replacement plan, would throw our health care system into chaos, raising rates across the board and forcing 30 million people to give up coverage they received because of the law.

If the federal government cuts Medicaid spending, that will force budget cuts on states across the board – and that can have a direct impact on the services AFSCME members provide. Medicaid cuts can lead to reduced hours, hiring freezes and even layoffs among state and local employees.

AFSCME members who work with the most vulnerable members of society know how important Medicaid is. It’s a lifeline for seniors, the poor and people with disabilities. It pays for critical services like home care.

Most of us either depend on Medicare or plan to someday. It’s a lifeline for retirees, helping keep millions of seniors out of poverty. Privatizing or otherwise cutting Medicare would be a disaster for AFSCME members, retirees and the people we work so hard to serve. We cannot allow that to happen.

As a Georgia congressman, Price supported raising Medicare’s eligibility age and other changes that would make the program less effective. He supported cuts to Medicaid and is a proponent of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

This agenda could put millions of jobs – and lives – at risk. Our economy, our communities, and our values are at stake, and it’s up to us to protect them all.

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