07.12.17

By:  Eric Barlow
Source: Tennessean

Trump supporter: Republican health plan 'terrifies me'

I am a Republican, and I voted for President Trump. I voted for leaders who, I thought, would make a serious, bipartisan effort to fix the problems with Obamacare.

Instead, senators have been cutting deals in secret and refusing to hear testimony from doctors and other experts. Those of us whose lives will be affected are being kept in the dark.

In May the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act, a bill which will repeal Obamacare and change the way Medicaid works. Now the Senate Republicans are trying to gather support to vote on their own plan.

This terrifies me. My dear 5-year-old son, Drake, was born with a severe heart defect. He will eventually need a heart transplant. While he waits to become eligible for a transplant, he cannot survive without medication that costs $6,000 per month, as well as in-home nursing care.

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Though I work a full-time job as an operations manager for Waste Management, my family could not afford this medication and nursing care on my salary alone. Luckily, Drake is eligible for Medicaid, or TennCare as it is known in Tennessee. Without Medicaid’s help paying for Drake’s medication and nursing care, he would not survive more than a few days. Medicaid is literally a lifesaver for my son.

Drake is not alone in needing Medicaid. Medicaid provides health coverage for over half of the children in Tennessee, and far more than half of the children with disabilities or serious medical conditions like Drake.

The AHCA will cut federal funding for Medicaid by more than $800 billion over the next 10 years. That translates into a $500 million cut to TennCare each year. There is no way that TennCare can absorb such losses without cutting care for kids, like Drake, whose care is the most costly.

This makes me terribly afraid for Drake, knowing his life is in the hands of Congress instead of his doctors.

I hope our politicians will consider all of the families who will be harmed by the AHCA — and that includes more than just families on Medicaid. It includes anyone who has a serious illness or disability. The AHCA lets states drop key protections for people with pre-existing health conditions, which would allow insurance companies to discriminate against them.

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The AHCA will also allow insurance companies to reinstate annual and lifetime limits in private insurance plans, including employer-sponsored plans. A child with expensive medical needs like Drake could exhaust these limits in a matter of months, leaving him without any coverage.

It also includes anyone who may need care someday in a hospital located in a rural community. Those facilities are heavily reliant on Medicaid payments to keep the lights on and the doors open. Cuts to those payments under the AHCA will force them to cut services, and many rural hospitals will close.

Senator Corker has said that he hoped that the Senate would have “a more open process and have committee hearings” when considering how to fix Obamacare. With so much on the line for Drake and many other Tennesseans, I hope other senators will listen to him as they continue to work on their proposal.

Eric Barlow lives in Lewisburg.