Those North Carolinians who believe there is value in ensuring – and insuring – the health care of people of all ages, particularly children, should be pulling against a nutty Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a block grant program and cap on Medicaid. This craziness, led by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, doesn’t reflect the wishes of constituents. Most polls now show the ACA, or “Obamacare,” to be more popular with the public. And no wonder: It’s made possible health insurance for more than 20 million Americans.
But Graham and too many of his Republican mates in the U.S. Senate, determined to carry out political vengeance against the twice-elected Barack Obama, seem to care not at all that their so-called reform would likely cut billions of dollars in health care subsidies and other aid and inevitably would put Americans in danger of simply not getting the health care they need.
Three different studies show that North Carolina would be hit hard.
The Kaiser Family Foundation found that from 2020 to 2026, North Carolina would be getting $8.1 billion less in assistance from the federal government for health care for lower-income people.
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And more than half of those in this state who use Medicaid – the federal/state program providing health care to the poor and disabled – are children. (There are 2 million people in North Carolina who use Medicaid.)
Any health insurance reform needs to pass one test especially, a review from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. A couple of Republican plans put forward previously were found seriously wanting by the CBO in that they would have left more than 20 million Americans without health insurance.
So what will the CBO say about this plan? There’s the rub, and it’s intentional. Graham and others pushing the plan want to rush it through before the CBO can render a judgment. That’s a way of silencing critics.
But the senator and his friends can’t silence other organizations such as Kaiser from having a say, and the critics are virtually unanimous in their dire predictions for what will happen to people dependent on Medicaid and the ACA for their health care.
Consider what might happen in North Carolina if the federal government went to some sort of “block grant” program to cover the poor. Would Republicans in the General Assembly pick up any shortfalls that came about because there wasn’t enough federal money? That’s highly unlikely. And the result would be emergency rooms in every hospital in the state crammed with poor families going that route for routine health coverage, which would be a hazard to people coming to the emergency room for acute, serious illnesses or injuries.
The quality of health care delivered to people would vary widely from state to state. States where caring for the poor and disadvantaged is a priority of government – mostly so-called “blue” states – might continue to make such care a priority. But other states, and North Carolina is among them, where Republicans have made tax cuts for the rich and for business their one and only priority, would likely go on the cheap when it came to health care for those who are voiceless when it comes to getting the attention of lawmakers.
This push in the Senate will have serious consequences for literally millions of people in North Carolina.