Recently, as I waited to begin a healthcare town hall with my congressional colleagues, John Sarbanes and Dutch Ruppersberger, I was filled with gratitude for the neighbors who were filling the large meeting room to capacity on a Sunday afternoon.
“These good people get it,” I thought to myself. “They understand that we all have to stand together and be counted if we are to successfully defend affordable healthcare as a fundamental human (and civil) right in our country.”
John, Dutch and I did not organize this town hall. It was the brainchild of Indivisible Howard County, one of the thousands of “Indivisible” civic action groups that have sprung up across Maryland and America in response to President Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress.
At the town hall, we were candid with our neighbors that we need the active support of millions of Americans like them if we are to defeat the Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act – and, then, continue to move forward toward truly universal healthcare in America.
For me, assuring that no American dies because he or she cannot afford healthcare is a deeply personal, moral issue. Nevertheless, to successfully defend the ACA (“ObamaCare”) in a Republican-dominated Congress, we must be able to articulate the real-life impact of repealing the ACA on the neighbors we represent.
This is why we Democrats have asked our expert committee staff to evaluate the human consequences of ACA repeal. Here is what we believe would be the human cost in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District.
– Our uninsured rate has dropped from 9.4% to 6.0% since the ACA was implemented. This 3.3 percentage point drop in the uninsured rate could be reversed if the ACA is entirely or partially repealed.
– More than 355,200 men, women and children in our District who now have health insurance that covers preventive services like cancer screenings and flu shots without any co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles stand to lose this access.
– More than 404,900 of us who are fortunate enough to have employer-sponsored health insurance are at risk of losing important consumer protections – like the prohibition on annual and lifetime limits, protection against unfair policy rescissions, and coverage of preexisting health conditions.
– At least 15,500 of my neighbors who have purchased high quality Marketplace coverage stand to lose their insurance if the Republican Congress dismantles the Marketplaces; and 11,600 who received financial assistance to purchase Marketplace coverage in 2016 are now at risk of their coverage becoming unaffordable.
– At least 8,300 individuals in the 7th District who are receiving cost-sharing reductions to lower out-of-pocket costs – such as deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance – will be at risk of health care becoming unaffordable.
– Finally, if the Republican Congress eliminates the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, another 50,200 neighbors who now are covered by this federal funding would lose coverage if the ACA is repealed.
These human costs, I should stress, are for people in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District. To fully grasp the devastation to Maryland as a whole, the costs that I have cited would have to be multiplied by about 8. For America, the deadly multiplier would be in the neighborhood of 400.
That, as I expressed to my neighbors attending Indivisible’s town hall, would be a morally unacceptable disaster for our nation.
Maryland’s Democratic Delegation to the U.S. House and Senate, along with our entire Democratic Caucus, will fight ACA repeal with every fiber of our being. The hard truth, however, is that we Democrats are in the minority – and we no longer have President Obama to protect America against reactionary Republican assaults.
Therefore, of necessity, we need the help of more moderate Republicans in the House and, especially, in the Senate. Gaining that help is why an energized and vocal American public is so critical to success.
Across America, local groups of concerned citizens are rising up and coming together, using the Internet to help us take action to protect what is right. Determined to influence national healthcare policy, civil rights and other core values, Americans are now using effective, no cost organizing tools that are available at https://www.indivisibleguide.com .
There is clear evidence that citizen activism is working. Growing support for the ACA in major opinion polls and the public outcry against “repeal” appear to be moderating some Republicans’ support for dismantling ObamaCare.
Already, the fulcrum of the healthcare debate in Washington appears to be shifting from outright “repeal” to “repeal and replace” and, hopefully, to “repair.”
We must be clear, however, that we have not yet won this fight. Engaged Americans and their progressive Members of Congress must keep up the pressure.
We must continue to demand that the Republican congressional majority convince us by evidence, not ideological slogans, that their proposed “repair” of the ACA will both maintain the expanded insurance coverage that we have achieved and reduce the cost of healthcare for our nation’s working families.
Lives are in the balance. We cannot afford to fail.
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.