By Kim Krisberg
Senate Republicans are again trying to ram through an Affordable Care Act replacement that threatens the health and well-being of millions of Americans. It’s shameful. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at what people who actually work in health care are saying about the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill.
In this interview, Sen. Bill Cassidy insists that his bill would protect people with pre-existing conditions. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association disagrees. (Cassidy also says in that same interview that his bill would work through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which he said has been reauthorized. That’s totally false — CHIP has not been reauthorized and its funding expires Sept. 30.) But back to pre-existing conditions — here’s what Blue Cross Blue Shield had to say:
Although we support providing states with greater flexibility in shaping health care options for their residents, we share the significant concerns of many health care organizations about the proposed Graham-Cassidy bill. The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions. The legislation reduces funding for many states significantly and would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans...
And let’s not forget public health. The ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) has become an absolutely critical source of funding for the nation’s public health agencies. Cassidy’s bill would eliminate that fund. Here’s what the Big Cities Health Coalition, a forum for the country’s largest metropolitan health departments, had to say about the fund’s potential elimination:
Among the programs at risk at the CDC are the 317 Immunization Program, Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Grants, the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, and a host of chronic disease programs. The PPHF provides vital resources to governmental public health at all levels, and its elimination will further erode our fragile health system.
Eliminating public health programs that are now funded by the ACA would seriously undermine the ability of cities and counties to protect and promote health. The loss of hundreds of millions of dollars would hamper efforts to respond to food borne illness outbreaks, prevent emerging infectious diseases like Ebola and Zika, and respond to natural disasters like Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
And in a letter to senators from the American Public Health Association, Executive Director Georges Benjamin writes:
The Graham-Cassidy plan would also eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, the first and only mandatory funding stream specifically dedicated to public health and prevention activities. The fund has already provided more than $6 billion to support a variety of public health activities in every state including tracking and preventing infectious diseases like the Ebola and Zika viruses, community and clinical prevention programs, preventing childhood lead poisoning and expanding access to childhood immunizations. Eliminating the fund would devastate the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fund currently makes up 12 percent of CDC’s budget and eliminating this funding stream would force Congress to replace the funding through the regular appropriations process where resources for nondefense discretionary programs are already too low.
Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson is a threat to America’s health. If you’d like to voice your opinion, the American Public Health Association has an easy-to-use template to help you reach your representatives in Congress. For more information on the ACA replacement, NPR has a fantastic explainer.
Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for 15 years. Follow me on Twitter — @kkrisberg.