I’ve got a new piece up on Slate on how repealing the Affordable Care Act could impact families like mine (yes, even with employer-sponsored insurance). And it will do even more damage to poor families relying on Medicaid to pay for their children’s complex healthcare needs. A little background there: As part of their ACA repeal goals, Republicans want to convert Medicaid and Medicare entitlement funds into block grants, which means that the amount of money a state receives will no longer depend on how many of its citizens need coverage. When that happened to welfare, we saw states tighten up eligibility requirements so much that 74 percent of American families with children living in poverty are now no longer able to get cash assistance when they need it.
When it comes to critically ill kids, Medicaid is already barely able to meet our existing needs. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report finding that babies born with birth defects were 45 to 49 percent more likely to die by age one if they had Medicaid coverage than if they were privately insured. Now imagine how much worse that death rate would be if even Medicaid was beyond their grasp.
Babies born with birth defects face harrowing and too often, tragic ordeals. They can also grow up to be three-year-olds who excel at performing their own check-ups (yes, that’s Violet doctoring her dad at an appointment last summer). Their parents’ income shouldn’t sway which way the dice rolls. But as the top commenter on my Slate piece wrote: “The GOP plan for kids like [Violet] is a mayonnaise jar for coins on the counter of your local 7-11.”
And speaking of mayonnaise, another dire consequence of repealing the ACA may be that more people go hungry, as Lynne Curry writes in this terrific Civil Eats piece. That’s because language in the ACA has prompted some doctors to start asking whether their patients have enough to eat — which seems so simple, how were we not already doing that? — and then connecting them to SNAP and other resources if the answer is no. We can hope that the cities who have already rolled out such “screen and intervene” programs will continue, but funding and other incentives to start new programs may be decimated, unless lawmakers can be convinced of their economic benefits. (Here’s one: Hungry people have way more expensive health problems.)
At the moment, we’re stuck in a holding pattern waiting to see what kind of plan the Republicans come up with to follow up their promise to repeal the ACA. But if any of the above worries you, please call your representatives and tell them you don’t support a repeal of the ACA, you don’t support converting Medicare and Medicaid into block grants and you want to see more support for food insecurity screenings, not less. (Find your member of Congress and your Senator.)
PS. Looking for a way to help a family coping with a critically ill kid (or any other catastrophe) that’s more, well, immediate? I loved this post from Dinner: A Love Story on how to make freezer care packages.
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