‘Repeal and replace’ proposal is a morally reprehensible move
dent Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation that established Medicare, insurance for people who had reached the age of 65. As the ability of physicians and health-care providers to treat the great killers of our day — heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes — has increased, so have the demands on this life-saving program to cover the costs of treatment.
Medicare and the state-federal companion Medicaid that provides care for the poor and disabled were a boon to people most in need of health care. For these people, Medicare and Medicaid provided the security that if they got sick, one of these programs would provide help. When the state Children’s Health Insurance Program designed to help families of modest income purchase insurance for their children went into effect in 1997, the security was reinforced.
The establishment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 extended that security to those who owned their own businesses or worked for employers who did not provide health insurance. In those states that were forwardlooking, legislators extended the reach of Medicaid beyond the poverty level. None of these programs — some federal and others a combination of federal and state — were perfect, but they were enough to give people a backstop when disaster struck.
Today, the Republican-held Congress — House and Senate — is searching for ways to strip that security away from those who need it the most. That means single mothers with sick children, the unemployed and underemployed with jobs that provide no health benefits, children and young people born with ailments that require expensive treatments and surgeries and a host of others. House Speaker Paul Ryan opines that under the proposed House plan, people will lose their health insurance because they choose not to purchase it. That is sophistry. Before the Affordable Care Act, they could not afford health insurance, and without the aid provided under the ACA, they will be without it again.
For residents of Harris County, HarrisHealth will once again have to step into the breach. That tax-supported health system is responsible for providing care for at least 1 in 3 county residents.
The lack of security in health care came to the fore almost daily when I was the medical writer for the Houston Chronicle from 1978 to 1998. I met parents whose employer-provided health insurance would not cover the cost of organ transplantation their children desperately needed. I saw mothers who could not go back to work because the added income would make them ineligible for the Medicaid that was a lifeline for their youngsters. Cruelly, many large employers in Houston provided health insurance for workers but not their families.
I cannot understand the callousness of leaders like Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Speaker Ryan, who have designed plans that will strip the needy of health care. Cruz’s plan to offer stripped-down policies offers little or no protection and makes insurance ultimately unaffordable to those with preexisting conditions. He and his state Republican cohorts have already made Texas the most uninsured state in the nation. Mothers giving birth in Texas die at rates that are the United States’ highest. This is inhumanity in its worst form, and it cannot continue. We must fight to maintain the health insurance that our people need.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has given Congress until the end of July to repeal and replace ACA. Doing so would not only be a disaster, but would also be morally reprehensible.
As Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, an iconic figure in U.S. medicine and driving force in the establishment of Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, often said, “We can deliver the best medical care in the world, and we have the worst method of distributing it.” The GOP proposal amplifies his point.
Health care legislation should embrace DeBakey’s wisdom and seek to make health care more accessible, more humane and more effective to ensure that no one in the United States ever again suffers from its lack. My grandfather’s story was a story of health care’s past. The GOP proposal will make stories like it part of health care’s future.