My favorite kind of bagels are “Keep Fighting” bagels

I’m no newbie to late nights (that often turned into early mornings) watching legislation be written, debated and voted on. During my four years working in the Michigan Legislature, I saw countless hastily written amendments being put up for votes, short fuses getting the best of everyone, and even chants of “Shame! Shame!” being shouted at the majority party reminiscent of an episode of Game of Thrones after they refused to let members speak.

So when I heard that the U.S. Senate was expecting a long night trying to pass their latest version of the Affordable Care Act, I settled in.

I’ll admit when the evening started, I figured it was a done deal. As the Senate began debate, the months we had spent fighting against efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the healthcare millions of Michiganians depend on were definitely hanging in the balance.

At around 1 a.m., the Twitterverse was going crazy. Things had stalled—votes weren’t being taken, reporters were analyzing body language and many people started predicting that things were not going well for the Majority Leader. Then in dramatic fashion, Sen. John McCain joined Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski (who had been publicly outspoken about the repeal attempts) in opposition to what was considered the Senate’s last ditch effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. At 2:30 a.m., I emailed my co-workers in celebration and headed to bed.

The next morning, I thought we needed to celebrate. I stopped at my favorite downtown Lansing bagel shop for bagels. It was there I ran into a friend and told him about my “celebration bagels,” but he reminded me that they should actually just be “relief bagels.” And he was right because the fight to protect all the gains made through enactment of the Affordable Care Act was and is not over.image2

In recent weeks, President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments and to stifle efforts to enroll people in the ACA exchanges during open enrollment. The Congressional Budget Office recently released a report on the impact of terminating cost-sharing reductions. Cost-sharing reductions are paid to insurers to cover costs of a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that requires them to offer plans with reduced deductibles, co-payments, and other forms of cost-sharing to individuals purchasing plans on the healthcare exchanges. The report found that by not continuing these payments the federal deficit would increase by $194 billion by 2026, would drive insurers to exit the marketplaces, and would cause premiums to increase by 20% in 2018 and 25% in 2020.

We are happy to report that President Trump has decided to fund these payments for the month of August. We encourage Congress to make a permanent, mandatory appropriation to ensure full funding of CSR payments in order to stabilize the marketplace and erase much uncertainty in the insurance market.

There is also word out of Washington that Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham are working with the White House to push their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Cassidy-Graham plan continues many of the same flaws in the previous Senate and House Republican repeal and replace bills—and would have the same damaging consequences.

As an advocate, I get it—it’s been a long eight months and we are all exhausted. We are fighting battles on every corner. But it is important for us to remember why we do this work. Incredible work has already been done and it’s okay that we celebrate the little victories, but the next bagel you buy better be a “keep fighting” bagel, because as Congress returns to work next week, so will we.

Emily Schwarzkopf

 

Red alert: Delay on healthcare is time to redouble efforts

Monday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score on the U.S. Senate healthcare bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act or BCRA. According to the report from the nonpartisan CBO, nothing in the bill makes care better and it is largely a continuation of the flaws in the House-passed healthcare bill.

Over the last two days, a vote by the Senate on their healthcare bill went from imminent to delayed at least a week. But we still need to keep fighting and make sure everyone knows how bad the BCRA is.

The CBO report shows that under the Senate healthcare plan:

  • 15 million people would become uninsured in 2018, with a total of 22 million people by 2026.
  • Federal funding to states for Medicaid would decline by $772 billion, forcing states to increase provider rates or reduce care. These cuts would also force states to look at funding priorities whether it be infrastructure, education or healthcare.
  • States’ Medicaid expansion programs would be phased out. In Michigan, that would mean the over 670,000 Michiganians who receive care through the Healthy Michigan Plan would lose health coverage.
  • Individuals may lose coverage to critical health services including treatment for substance use disorders and maternity care.
  • Average healthcare premiums would go up 20% in 2018.
  • Individuals who are low income will pay more for less comprehensive coverage.
  • Four million people with employer-sponsored coverage would lose insurance.
  • Nearly all of the coverage gains experienced under the ACA would be eliminated by 2026 and the uninsured rate among the non-elderly would rise almost to its 2010 level, before the ACA took effect. (Under the ACA, the uninsured fell to a historic low of nine percent.)

I’ll admit, I have been having a hard time over the past couple of months thinking that legislation that hurts this many people would and could actually pass. I understand that there is a legislative process and following the announcement that the vote will be delayed, I’m sure that over the coming days and weeks we will see changes made to this bill, but changes may still result in large sums of people losing life-saving care.

CBPP BCRA-AHCA Comparsion 575x525

I want to enjoy my Fourth of July and I want you to do the same, but maybe you can also take a few minutes over the next couple of weeks to call Congress at (202) 224-3121 or attend an event or town hall and tell your Representative that you will not accept any healthcare bill that:

  • Reduces healthcare coverage;
  • Ends Medicaid expansion and the Healthy Michigan Plan;
  • Ends the traditional Medicaid program as we know it through per capita caps or block grants; and
  • Makes individual market coverage less affordable.

This delay on a vote is a great sign, but the fight is not over. We must keep up our pressure on our members of Congress. Thankfully, Michigan’s two U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters have already come out in strong opposition to the BCRA (but it doesn’t hurt to thank them for their support). The lives, safety net and economic peace of mind of our fellow Michiganians and Americans are at stake.

— Emily Schwarzkopf