As our nation celebrates its independence this week, the Senate may vote on the ‘Better Care’ Reconciliation Act, a bill that repeals much of the expanded health care made available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The bill largely dismantles the coverage gains of the ACA. This means that the 20 million people who were finally able to have health care coverage under the ACA would find themselves without access to health care.
The Senate’s bill includes canceling the Medicaid expansion and goes much further in slashing health care coverage under this vital program. These cuts are even more devastating than the House version. This will increase the burden on low-income Americans and dramatically reduce coverage for those who count on the program today. It will end coverage for such critical services as mental health. These would be the most significant changes in Medicaid since it was introduced in the 1960s. The ramifications of such legislation impact those that need health care services most, our nation’s poor and most vulnerable.
In Washington State, Medicaid expansion has meant that 600,000 more people now have health care coverage. We have felt this impact at Swedish. In 2016, with our affiliate partner Providence, we served almost 30% of all Medicaid patients in western Washington. Swedish saw a nearly 10% increase in Medicaid patients from 2015-2016, many of them among the sickest of the sick in our nation. The obliteration of coverage for such a sizable segment of our population will clearly impact the people we serve. Without coverage, individuals and families may delay or forego care because they just cannot afford it.
Swedish is a leader in community benefit and charity care because we believe health care is a basic human right for everyone. We must, and will, continue to fight locally and nationally to preserve the progress we have made in recent years to ensure access and affordability of health care for all.