Residents and doctor weigh in on senators’ controversial bill.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Sam Shields is physically disabled and receives health care through Medicaid, a government program that provides coverage to millions of Americans, including low-income adults, children, pregnant women, senior citizens and people with disabilities.
The 43-year-old Volusia County resident is among the many Americans concerned about the new bill – the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – proposed by Republican senators in Congress.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the bill, if approved by the Senate, would leave 22 million fewer Americans without health care by 2026. The bill also chops $772 billion from the Medicaid program.
It’s frustrating for Shields.
“I think everyone should be entitled to health care. Morally, it should be available for everyone in the country regardless of their race or socioeconomic status. It just seems like they want the poor to die,” Shields told the Daytona Times this week.
“The people who are well off and can take care of their families will be fine. There is no telling why a person is poor. Everyone should have access to health care and education. They call America the land of freedom and opportunity but the poor always get the short end of the stick.’’
He recalls a time when he had health insurance through his employment, and it saved his life.
“I had a brain aneurysm when I was working at AT&T as a cable technician. I had been on the job for 10 years when it happened. If I didn’t have health insurance at the time, I would have died,” he recalled.
A little assistance
Another local resident, Richard Bell, appreciates the health care help that he does receive.
“It may or may not affect me. It may be worst for others. I maybe can manage to keep my head a little bit above water. All Medicaid does for me is give me $16 worth of food stamps each month,” Bell shared with the Times.
“Medicare allows me to have hospital visits. You have part A and part B. If I lose Medicare, I can’t go to the hospital. If I lose Medicaid, I may lose my stamps. The $16 of food stamps is not much, but when you get in the grocery line, every little bit adds up. At my age, you need to be able to go to a hospital when needed,’’ added Bell, who is 67.
Effort to repeal
The controversial Senate bill follows an earlier proposal by Republicans in the House of Representatives who also drafted a bill to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.
Republicans have been trying to repeal Obama, which became law in 2010, ever since they took the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Senate has delayed voting on the bill until their Independence Day holiday break.
This week, the national NAACP issued an appeal to all of its members to protect affordable health care by calling their senators and asking them to halt the BCRA.
The NAACP is citing higher premiums for skimpier coverage and an increase in deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. In a statement, the organization also points out that the bill weakens protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Doctor weighs in
Many health care providers say the concerns of Americans about the Senate’s bill are warranted.
“Those currently on any plan under the Affordable Care Act will have their coverage phased out.
Those on Medicaid will lose coverage. The disabled will lose coverage, which is a big problem,’ explained Dr. Loretha King, a primary care physician with Florida Care Health Plans.
“The important thing is that those who have a preexisting condition – which a lot of people do, especially in Florida – or if you develop one, you will end up paying more money.’’
King further explained, “People without medical problems and not on medication will see their premiums drop. But those who already have medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma and bronchitis will see their premiums go up.”
Removes preventive care
King explained that the bill could have a devastating impact on the quality of a patient’s life.
“This bill could take us back to when people used the emergency room for their health care. At that point, the condition is critical and the person is very sick,” King continued.
“Now people can see a doctor and be pre-diagnosed, which helps prevent conditions like diabetes, hypertension, etc. With this bill, people who don’t have primary carewill end up with conditions like diabetes, kidney failure and more.”
The doctor added, “The preventive choices will be eliminated. That’s critical since it helps us find diseases early. It’s not just the quantity of life but the quality of life that is going to be affected when you remove the preventive care.’’