Fake News About Obamacare

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 @ 9:30AM

The Republicans latest talking point about the Affordable Care Act is that it is collapsing and will ultimately fail, therefore the only alternative is to repeal it and rescue lower income Americans by passing a new law that will deprive many of them of healthcare and cause millions to pay more than they do now. Like so much fake news coming out of the White House, it fails to provide the full context. Obamacare, as the ACA was derisively named by Republicans, has been weakened by a series of legislative attacks, the most devastating being the omnibus spending bill passed in late 2015 or early 2016 that defunded the “risk corridor” provision that would have allowed health insurers to recoup losses incurred by taking on disproportionate numbers of sicker consumers. The Obama Administration created a risk pool through which insurers would share the burden of enrolling consumers with pre-existing conditions.

Republicans quickly tout the fact that one-third of counties in the exchanges have only one insurer, leaving consumers without choice and competition which they say leads to higher premiums. It was their policies that drove insurers out of the exchange marketplace. What they also fail to explain is that one-third of counties does not extrapolate to one-third of consumers. Many of those counties are rural and sparsely populated, so about one-fifth of consumers have only one insurer serving the exchanges.

Now that Americans have finally had an opportunity to get a look at what the Republicans are proposing, Obamacare is looking like a much more sound and equitable way to provide healthcare. The American Healthcare Act or Trumpcare, received a damaging analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office which estimated approximately 14 million people will lose health insurance in 2018 if the bill becomes law. It estimated another seven million will lose coverage by 2020 and a total of 24 million would lose their coverage by 2026. The bill also results in a huge transfer of wealth from poorer Americans to the wealthy as Medicaid is eviscerated through block grants to the states and wealthier consumer would receive a huge task break. Many of the people hardest hit by this new healthcare bill voted for Donald Trump whose proposed budget released last week would wreak further havoc on low-income Americans.

The good news is that there is still a Congress and Mr. Trump will not get all of his policy wishes. The AHA is dead on arrival in the Senate and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan acknowledges that he does not have the votes to pass it in the House. There is no way Trump’s budget will get passed with the draconian cuts he proposes to non-defense discretionary spending. However, social work researchers need to be busy getting their evidence into the marketplace of ideas and provide evidence that social programs are working well in many cases.

In this environment, CRISP sponsored three events in March—a policy forum March 8th at the National Press Club entitled Social Work and Civic Engagement in the Trump Era, a spirited exchange moderated by White House Correspondent April Ryan. We celebrated our third annual Social Work Day on the Hill later that day, honoring former Congressman Ed Towns, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI), Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) President and CEO Darla Coffey, Fund for Social Policy Education and Practice Executive Director Pat White and the Geena Davis Institute. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus, presented the award to Mr. Towns. Mary McKay, dean at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis was the emcee.

The following day hundreds of social work students from 17 states gathered at the Elstad Auditorium for our Student Advocacy Day on the Hill event. After a brief morning program, they boarded buses and went on the Hill to lobby congressional offices on behalf of H.R. 1289—the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, and H.R. 1290—the Improving Access to Mental Health Act, both bills reintroduced in the 115th Congress by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. It was an inspiring day as 65 deaf and hard-of-hearing Gallaudet University social work students participated in the activities.

These events were made possible by the generous support of our sponsors: the Clark Fox Institute at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work, Social Justice Solutions, the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work, the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), Barry University Ellen Whiteside McDonald School of Social Work, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, the University of Washington School of Social Work, the Catholic University of America National Catholic School of Social Work, the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health, the University of Georgia School of Social Work, Boston University School of Social Work, the Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work, Dean Emeritus and Professor Salome Raheim, the University of Buffalo School of Social Work, the University of Michigan School of Social Work, Mr. Peter Catell, the University of Denver School of Social Work, Judge Betty Williams, Clark Atlanta Whitney M. Young, Jr. School of Social Work and the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

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