As the GOP health care bill edges closer to a vote in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania called on Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Pennsylvania nurses union president Patricia Eakin, and others to testify on how the changes will affect millions of American families.
“What they have in front of them now, the bill that the House voted on, is not really a health care bill,” Casey said. “You can’t call it a health care bill if you’re ripping health care from 23 million people. And you can’t call it a health care bill when you’ve got tax giveaways to the super rich, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.”
A few dozen Philadelphians gathered at Jefferson Hospital’s Alumni Hall for a two-panel hearing to explore the impact the American Health Care Act would have on Pennsylvania families, cities, and municipalities.
“The injustice that is the AHCA will be utterly devastating to the people of Philadelphia,” said Kenney, a panelist. “Altering a program that 650,000 Philadelphians rely on for their health coverage will not only halt this forward motion, it will cause us to regress.”
According to Kenney, 270,0000 of these people are children. In simpler terms, three out of four children in Philadelphia depend on Medicaid for their health care.
“These circumstances would make it impossible for the children of Philadelphia to reach their full potential. Their fates will be sealed,” said Kenney.
Currently 26 percent of Philadelphians live at or below the poverty line. Kenney argued that the GOP legislation would deny tens of thousands medical care, impeding their ability to work.
“A common argument against programs like Medicaid is, ‘why can’t these people get a job, then they’ll have health care insurance?’ We need to end this misconception since thousands of people depend on Medicaid to even make it to work,” he said.
Eakin, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals and a nurse at Temple University Hospital’s emergency room, said that the AHCA will strip patients of many rights the Affordable Care Act afforded them.
“Many people will return to the Russian roulette of taking chances and not buying coverage,” she said. “For older people, and the ones with pre-existing conditions, coverage will be literally unaffordable. Women will still have babies but may have to skip essential prenatal care.”
According to Eakin, the plan will cause major cuts to Pennsylvania hospitals.
“Earlier this year, Temple University Hospital estimated they could lose up to $45 million with the repeal of the ACA. They can’t absorb that,” she said.
Casey added it is widely predicated that rural hospitals will suffer. Of the 48 rural counties in Pennsylvania, 28 rely on a hospital as the top or second-largest employer.
“I think some of the estimates are way off,” he said. “We’re not talking about hundreds of people losing their jobs, we’re talking about thousands of people in rural areas, or tens of thousands losing their job. And that’s not even the health care outcome.”
During the second panel, Philadelphia-area residents shared their health coverage stories. Wearing a T-shirt proclaiming, “My Medicaid Matters,” German Perodi, the president of Disabled Action of Pennsylvania, said that he’s needed long-term care since a gun shot hit his spinal cord and paralyzed him. His Medicaid benefits allow him to be independent, care for his family, and stay active on behalf of others.
“This story is not my own. It is the story of hundreds of thousands of Americans who live with disabilities and depend on Medicaid to live successful lives in the communities of their choice,” he said. “If our Medicaid is cut, it will end up crippling our lives, our economy, and our country.”
Thanking Casey for holding the hearing, Perodi asked the lawmaker to do everything in his power to protect Perodi’s life — and the lives of millions of people like him.