GOP attacks on Affordable Care Act jeopardize Colorado health, lives

Author: Crisanta Duran - September 25, 2017 - Updated: September 25, 2017

Crisanta Duran

The newest iteration of congressional legislation to gut the Affordable Care Act — the Graham-Cassidy bill — would be devastating for Colorado. Politicians in Washington, D.C., keep trying to unilaterally impose upon America their vision of far more costly health care that covers far fewer people. This is more of the same.

Like previous efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, this newest bill would strip healthcare coverage away from tens of thousands of Coloradans — and millions of people nationally — while raising costs for millions more. The poison pill bill removes protections for people with preexisting conditions, allows states to apply to remove essential benefits from insurance coverage (meaning people with conditions like cancer could be denied care under their health policies) and erases billions in Medicaid funding that children, families and those with severe disabilities depend upon. In short, it’s cruel.

Graham-Cassidy doesn’t solve any of the problems with our health care system – it just dumps those problems on the states. Avalere, a nonpartisan health care consulting firm, recently completed a state-by-state estimate showing that if Graham-Cassidy were to become law, over the first 16 years Colorado would lose $78 billion in federal funding. A cost shift of that magnitude would not only directly remove access to healthcare for countless people, it would also devastate Colorado’s state budget, ravaging funding for schools and public safety.

Among the bill’s most insidious features is that it allows states to apply to waive out of protections for people with preexisting conditions. For the more than two million Coloradans with preexisting conditions, this could mean much higher premium costs –or even being unable to access care at all. For example, the Center for American Progress estimates that an individual with asthma could be forced to pay an additional $4,000 a year. A pregnancy could cost an additional $17,320, and a surcharge could add $142,650 to medical bills for patients with metastatic cancer.

It’s clear by now (if it wasn’t already) that the Republican campaign to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is absolutely unworkable, and puts the health and lives of millions of Americans in jeopardy.

Even with Senator McCain’s apparent opposition to the newest legislation, we cannot assume attacks on healthcare are over.

The time has come for bipartisanship. Governors John Hickenlooper and John Kasich have come forward with common-sense short-term solutions to stabilize healthcare markets, improve care and bring down costs. Their proposal represents a much more productive starting point; Senators Cassidy and Graham are using the same rushed and secretive process that we saw during previous rounds of the ACA repeal debate. The Republicans who control Congress need to get their act together, invite their Democratic colleagues into the conversation and work together to come up with solutions that will improve America’s health care system, not wreck it.

Crisanta Duran

Crisanta Duran

Crisanta Duran, a Denver Democrat representing House District 5, is speaker of the Colorado House.