“We are staying with the group … with Texas and the group” might not sound like much, but this sentence could end up costing millions of Americans access to their doctors, even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages.
On May 6, President Donald Trump made this declaration, one that essentially means he will continue to support a lawsuit that would completely dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
Here is the backstory:
Several years ago, a group of conservative states led by Texas banded together to sue the federal government arguing that the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) is unconstitutional.
You should know that Pennsylvania is not part of this lawsuit.
If these states succeed in this legal effort, the Affordable Care Act would be thrown out immediately.
Since the early days of Donald Trump’s time as commander in chief, his Justice Department has refused to defend the ACA in court.
His declaration that he is “staying with the group” reaffirms his commitment to this strategy of killing the ACA through the federal court system.
And with that, the 20 million Americans who have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act would be left without coverage.
Now, we are suffering through the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu of 1918.
COVID-19 has cost 33 million Americans (and counting) their jobs.
Along with their lost employment, many of those have seen their employer-provided health insurance disappear.
Without the ACA to turn to, where will they get health care?
“Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.”
This simple wisdom is listed on the Centers for Disease Control’s coronavirus website.
But what happens if you do not have medical insurance and therefore may not have a medical provider?
For the millions of Americans who still do not have health insurance even with the Affordable Care Act in place, that will always be a barrier when seeking medical attention.
Knowing all of this, who could possibly argue that kicking more than 20 million Americans off their health care plan makes any sense?
Who could possibly make the case that is wise when we need people to visit their doctor when they are symptomatic if for no other reason, so the virus doesn’t spread to more Americans?
Any criticism (legitimate or otherwise) of the Affordable Care Act notwithstanding, the idea that we as a nation would dismantle this key safety net during this crisis is unfathomable.
Let’s be honest: the controversy surrounding the ACA is nothing more than a contrived sound bite used by some politicians to score cheap political points.
It’s certainly true that ACA doesn’t cover enough people, as there are far too many Americans without health insurance.
But that doesn’t mean the ACA is a failure.
It is a highly successful health care policy that has covered 20 million Americans without bankrupting our federal or state governments. And it is very popular.
Recently, voters in two very conservative states, Louisiana and Kentucky, chose Democrats as their governors who promised to embrace Obamacare.
And recently in Pennsylvania, we adopted even more aspects of the Affordable Care Act through legislation crafted by none other than the House Republican leader.
But still, President Trump continues his dangerous legal crusade.
No one should be surprised that he opposes the ACA as it was a central tenet of his campaign, but even the most grizzled partisan should be shocked that he’s willing to continue down this path during the middle of this crippling and deadly coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 has taken more American lives than the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
It is not political-speak to say that despite this fact, President Trump is telling millions of Americans they should lose their health care.
One would like to think that as the circumstances in our nation have so drastically changed, our president would adapt.
It appears this is too much to ask for.
Editor’s note: State Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-22nd, represents the 22nd Legislative District which includes: Allentown Ward 1, Ward 2, Ward 3, Ward 4, Ward 5, Ward 6 Division 1, Ward 7, Ward 8 Divisions 1 and 2, Ward 9, Ward 10 Division 1, Ward 11 Divisions 1 and 2, Ward 12, Ward 14 Division 2, Ward 16 and Ward 19.