Sometimes I get the feeling that the Republicans want to give us free cigarettes and see what happens to our health with the proposed bill that President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan want to push through. “Insurance for everybody,” Trump once said. Sure, sure. Liar, liar, pants on fire. Maybe he meant Lying Teds for Everyone, a new cigarette brand.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but increasing numbers of doctors, medical groups, academics and nurses have been outraged by the plan Congress is expected to vote on Thursday. These are people who are usually restrained in their verbiage. Not this time. They are vociferous, how upset they are. And there is no denying what they mean: this bill can cause great damage to our health, especially older people and those on Medicaid. Take the new healthcare bill and add elements of the Trump Administration budget plan and that potentially could have a devastating impact for years to come, some say.
According to a CNN tally, numerous and powerful physician, nursing, hospital groups and others are drumming up opposition to the GOP plan, including AARP, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the American Nurses Association, the American College of Physicians and others.
Earlier this month, Nitin S. Damie, President of the American College of Physicians, told a congressional group that the GOP measure would “harm patients by taking coverage away from them.” He added that the bill would make private health insurance “unaffordable for older, sicker and poorer patients.” The American College of Physicians represents 148,000 internal medicine physicians.
Damie cited the oft-repeated study by the Congressional Budget Office that the number of uninsured would “skyrocket” by 24 million Americans in 2026 compared to Obamacare, and 14 million next year. He also said the proposal “radically restructures and cuts Medicaid.”
“Without health insurance, people are less likely to have access to a regular physician, less likely to get cancer screening tests, vaccinations, less likely to keep up with their medications, more likely to get care in an emergency room and more likely to wait to be treated until their disease has reached a more advanced and less treatable stage,” he said.
Damie offered an example that deeply reflected his concerns.
“I saw a 62-year-old male about two weeks ago who was relatively healthy but had a family history of heart disease. He came in with chest pressure and a change in his exercise tolerance over the past month. I did an EKG and an examination and diagnosed him with a heart attack. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he was stabilized and subsequently had quadruple bypass surgery. I saw him again yesterday and he is doing well. He showed me his bill of $150,000. Fortunately, he had insurance or would have had to declare bankruptcy from medical expenses.
A New York Times editorial today told of the Republicans’ search for enough votes to make “an already flawed bill even worse.” The newspaper also cited an official of the American College of Physicians who tweeted that he “had never seen a bill that will do more harm to health.”
In much starker terms, the Physicians for a National Health Program unsurprisingly blasted the GOP bill as a major step backward. The group said: “Repealing the Affordable Care Act without replacing it, as some conservative hardliners are demanding, would cost a minimum of 37,127 lives over the next two years and perhaps as many as four times that number, according to scientific studies summarized in an editorial in this week’s American Journal of Public Health.”
Sad Fiscal Policy
And let’s not forget the Trump budget plan.
A few days ago, the American Academy of Family Physicians said it urged Congress to “protect the foundation of the nation’s health care system” and reject the administration’s proposed budget.
“The cuts outlined in the document would hurt patients’ health, threaten their safety and reduce their access to care,” said AAFP President John Meigs, MD. “If implemented, these cuts would create a domino effect of damage that ultimately will harm the health of America on both an individual and communitywide basis,” Meigs said.
That domino begins with vast cutbacks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and on and on.
Of the proposed CDC reductions, Meigs said: “Deep cuts to its budget will decimate the CDC’s ability to prevent and control outbreaks of disease, leaving all U.S. residents vulnerable to emerging, deadly infectious diseases that could easily escalate into a pandemic.”
Care to light up?
— Joe Cantlupe