Health care advocates rallied at the U.S. Capitol Monday, part of a last-minute effort to defeat massive tax cuts – tax cuts that pose a potentially devastating threat to Medicaid, Medicare and other key programs.
In an event that was part protest and part news conference, medical practitioners and patients told story after story of how Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have helped. The tax cut bill repeals the ACA’s individual mandate, said to increase the number of uninsured by 13 million, and to increase premiums by 10 percent. These changes pay more than $300 billion toward the full cost of the tax cuts – people going without insurance or paying more for it in order to pay for tax cuts going overwhelmingly to the rich. In addition, the big increase in the deficit (approximately $1.5 trillion) is expected to result in a push in Congress to cut health programs still more. President Trump, Speaker Ryan and other leaders in Congress say their goal next year is to cut basic needs programs, possibly including Medicaid, Medicare, assistance for people with disabilities, and SNAP. Most imminently, the gaping increase in the deficit will under current law force automatic cuts in Medicare and certain other programs early next year if Congress does not act to waive the cuts.
Dr. Doris Brown, President of the National Medical Association, which represents 50,000 African American physicians and their patients, recounted the story of a 63-year-old man with diabetes. She said he arrived at the emergency room with a severe infection that was eating away at his upper right foot. She said he faced a choice: Leg-saving surgery or amputation – and 50 percent of diabetic patients who undergo amputation below the knee die within five years.
Because of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, the man’s leg was saved. “He is now active, exercising regularly, keeping his blood pressure and blood sugar under control, and he has not been re-hospitalized,” Dr. Brown said. “They are going to go after Medicare, Medicaid, and this is going to happen real soon, probably within the next year. So we must stop the passage of this tax scam bill.”
Dr. Manon Trivedi, who practices in Maryland and Washington, D.C. and is President of the National Physicians Alliance, recounted the story of “Joe,” a patient who worked as an independent contractor, painter, and installer of sheetrock.
Because of the ACA’s individual mandate, Joe purchased health insurance for the first time. He then began to develop chest pain and swelling in his legs and feet. When Joe visited Dr. Trivedi, he was referred to a cardiologist and primary care physician. “They were able to get him back on his feet so that he could get back to work,” Dr. Trivedi says.
Megan Anderson of Cincinnati, Ohio, said she suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. She relies on a powered wheelchair to get around and home attendant service helps her with things like showering and going to the bathroom. “My muscles are wasting away – my brain works fine,” she said. “I am begging the people who supposedly work for us: Do not let me die.”
Ady Barkan, whose story went viral after encountering Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on an airplane, was marking his birthday Monday when he addressed reporters and supporters. Barkan, an ALS patient, said he is “going to need serious medical intervention in order to stay alive and avoid suffering needlessly.”
“Monday is my 34th birthday. I probably won’t have many more,” he wrote in a Saturday email sent by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC). He continued:
“As I said in my email earlier this week when I shared the viral video of my conversation with Senator Jeff Flake on a plane from DC, a year ago I was healthy. Then, I was diagnosed with ALS— also called Lou Gehrig’s disease—which is a rapidly progressing deadly ailment with no cure.
“Now, I walk with a cane, I have trouble breathing, and I don’t even have the strength to lift my 18 month old son into my lap.
“Some days I feel like giving up. But I can’t. Instead, I’ve been crisscrossing the country fighting the Republican tax bill—and fighting for my life.
“The Republican tax plan would mean serious cuts to disability funding that I’ll need before too long to pay for a ventilator to keep me alive and other crucial medical care. What will these Republicans in Congress say to my son if I can’t get one?
“My birthday is Monday and I have one wish. I want us to make it into a massive day of action to kill the Republican tax scam.”
Monday’s event at the U.S. Capitol was among a number of anti-tax cut events held around the country Monday. Others took place in places as diverse as Painesville, Ohio; Chester, Pennsylvania; Huntington Beach, California; and Milwaukee. More are planned Tuesday. Since October, Americans for Tax Fairness reports that people have made 1.2 million phone calls to Congress to oppose the tax scam.
Meanwhile, a CBS News poll last week found that 3 in 4 Americans think the bill’s biggest benefits will go to the largest corporations, and only 1 in 5 Americans think their own taxes will go down. Averaging together major polls just this month, only one-third approve the tax cut bill and 52 percent oppose it.
Tell Congress: #HandsOff vital programs like Medicaid and Medicare, and #NotOnePenny for tax cuts for the rich and corporations.Call your members of Congress today at 877-795-7862 and tell them to vote against this plan.