When Senate Republicans finally revealed their secret plan to decimate the Affordable Care Act last week, it became apparent why groups like the AARP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association have come out to criticize the bill. You can add America’s educators to that growing list of opposition.
This piece of legislation eviscerates the Medicaid program on which children, seniors and millions of low income Americans depend; it abandons people with pre-existing conditions; and it will cause millions of Americans to lose their health care coverage. All while giving tax breaks to millionaires?! If the House Republican bill is “mean” as Donald Trump called it, then this Senate Republican bill is downright cruel.
But that’s not all. The cruel Senate version also falls short of promises Trump made on the campaign trail. The bill violates a fundamental promise he made to provide health care for everyone. In fact, it does quite the opposite. And people will suffer as a result.
Denying millions of vulnerable Americans — children, the poor, the disabled, and the elderly — the health care they desperately need means sentencing them to lives of illness, anguish, and missed opportunities. Republican leaders are choosing to cut taxes for the rich while rationing health care for the poor. It is Robin Hood in reverse.
Members of the National Education Association — teachers, bus drivers, counselors, and, yes, lunch ladies and more — know the kids who will suffer and the damage that will result.
As I travel around the country, I hear about what educators fear will happen if Senate Republicans have their way.
Taking away health care coverage for low-income children will create tremendous hardship for those children and their families.
Without Medicaid — which in many cases is the only source of health care students have — many students would come to school sick, unable to concentrate in class. They would not get the medicine they need, or eye exams, or hearing exams, or eyeglasses, or hearing aids or dental exams. Without Medicaid, kids with asthma could end up in the emergency room if they cannot afford their asthma medicine.
Our job as educators is to help students if they are having problems, whether they are academic, personal or medical. And we know that untreated medical issues get in the way of students’ learning.
Losing heath care coverage for these students is the last thing they and their families need.
Here’s something else that should infuriate anybody who cares about providing all students, regardless of family income, a disability or special medical need, the support and tools they need to learn: The Republican leaders would slash funding for school-based Medicaid programs. They’d also levy a devastating tax on workers’ health benefits.
The Republican leadership in Congress is racing recklessly to push through a seismic shift in the way the federal government funds Medicaid, capping the amount that will be sent to the states in the future, and cutting more than $840 billion from the federal / state program over a 10-year period. Starving Medicaid of federal funding will force states to ration health care for low income families, children and adults with disabilities, elderly Americans, and school-based programs serving millions of children.
Also, school-based Medicaid programs pay for services such as hearing and vision screenings, mental health services, and occupational and physical therapy. Lower income children and children with disabilities, especially in school districts with high poverty rates, will experience the greatest hardship. States will be pressed to tighten Medicaid eligibility requirements and limit the benefits covered. There will be crushing statehouse battles over funding health care, education, infrastructure and other programs. Legislators will be robbing Peter to pay Paul, and the results will devastate millions of needy children and adults.
Wealthy Americans and corporations? Not to worry. The Republican leaders’ health care plan would cut hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes for the wealthy. Their zeal to cut taxes, however, doesn’t seem to apply to middle class taxpayers. The AHCA postpones but keeps in place a devastating 40- percent tax on employment-based health benefits covering working families.
To recap, here is what’s in the Republican leadership’s health care plan:
• Kicking millions of American kids and adults off their health plans? Guaranteed.
• Shattering school-based Medicaid programs for the country’s neediest and most vulnerable students? Check.
• Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans? You bet.
• A devastating tax on workers’ health benefits? Definitely.
• Threats to education funding, infrastructure projects and other state priorities? Coming your way.
No wonder the Senate Republicans crafted their plan to eliminate the Affordable Care Act in total secrecy. They are ashamed of it. And they should be ashamed.
Lily Eskelsen García is president of the National Education Association, the largest union of educators in the U.S.