May 24, 2017
by Barb Cardell, PWN-USA Board Chair, PWN-USA CO Co-Chair and Kari Hartel
The AHCA has passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate. I have grave concerns about the process of the bill drafting, the lack of input from experts, the last-minute amendments that were included to ensure it passed, and failure to wait for a CBO scoring of the plan. Unfortunately, the House republicans were driven by the urge to “pass something, pass anything” and we will lose our groundbreaking access to healthcare in the process. Let me be clear, if the AHCA becomes law, people living with HIV will lose access to medical care and medications. We will die, and our lives should not be a pawn in a bad game of payback for Obamacare.
Living in the world of HIV since the ‘80s, I have seen my uninsured friends choose between rent and medications. I have seen people remain in abusive relationships because their partners have Health Insurance and if they left, they would have none. I have seen patients sit in an ER, struggling to breathe for hours because there was no other access to doctors. Once you have lived through these times, where people living with chronic medical conditions were less than, you see that the AHCA is a mean and ugly attempt at social engineering. It places those in the middle at risk of once again choosing between rent or medical care and casts the most financially vulnerable aside, stripping lifesaving health coverage away for a tax savings for the wealthy.
In Colorado, we did everything we could to provide health insurance for ALL Coloradans. We are a Medicaid Expansion state and created Health Benefit Exchanges. According to the Colorado Consumers Health Initiative (CCHI), we currently have 93.3% of people in Colorado who are insured. 588,000 working Coloradans would lose health care coverage with a repeal of the ACA. Of our 5.5 million residents 2.3 million live with pre-existing conditions and could lose life-saving coverage. This is not acceptable to any of us and we are paying attention to our Representatives and Senators. Senator Cory Gardner sits on the Senate Committee charged with drafting a Senate version of the AHCA. I should feel relieved that Colorado values were represented, unfortunately, he has not held an open town hall with his constituents since the ACA repeal discussion became so heated. Does he really have my best interests at heart?
The saddest part of this health access discussion, is that we are finally turning the tide of HIV. We have finally seen a year where new diagnosis drop, where people are testing and getting on effective treatment. Now, we are putting this at risk. Denver is one of the 90/90/90 Fast Track Initiative cities. Dr. Ben Young, Denver Public Health and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment partnered to support access to care for PLHIV, often relying on Medicaid expansion and Health Benefit Exchanges for coverage. Denver is poised to be one of the first international cities to achieve the goal already accomplishing the first two, 90% of PLHIV know their status and 90% are linked to care in Metro Denver. This significant accomplishment is at risk should the AHCA pass.
We know what is going to happen, the CBO will release a score of the AHCA that says tens of millions will be lose health coverage in a year and many more in ten years. The savings to the government will be sizable but less than projected and thousands will die each year. We must stop this madness, the tax cuts to the wealthy are a campaign promise and will not change their lives significantly. Loss of healthcare coverage for people living with HIV and other chronic conditions means that my life is at risk and many of my friends will die. It is unacceptable to deny this human right and we must be better than this.
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www.COHealthInitiative.org Value of the Affordable Care Act