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The fiscal year 2019 budget released this week couldn’t make the Administration’s priorities and values any clearer. The Budget seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with something similar to the failed Graham-Cassidy plan. This plan was roundly rejected, as the American people recognized it would raise costs and deny coverage for millions of consumers.

Nonetheless, the HHS budget summary calls for implementing this plan “as soon as possible.” Such a proposal will be harmful to millions of low-income older people and people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid and the ACA’s coverage protections. The HHS summary also supports Cassidy-Graham’s “comprehensive Medicaid reform” and repealing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Any plan that fails to protect people with pre-existing conditions, allows states to gut ACA protections, and makes devastating cuts to Medicaid is unacceptable and certainly must not be implemented “as soon as possible.”

In HHS’ recently released, 2017 “accomplishment report,” ACA sabotage is celebrated as an “accomplishment.” The Report states that CMS “conducted a successful, consumer-friendly open enrollment period at significantly lower cost than in previous years, attracting similar levels of enrollment with more focused investments in marketing.” During open enrollment, we highlighted the Administration’s less than “consumer friendly” actions such as cutting the enrollment period in half; slashing funding for enrollment assistance, refusing to participate in enrollment events; shutting down healthcare.gov during critical times and refusing to pay cost-sharing reductions which caused uncertainty in the market. The enrollment period was as successful as it was thanks to the hard work of the people who – despite roadblocks from the Administration – worked to enroll people and protect our care.   

The effect of healthcare sabotage is still being felt at the state level. The states of New York and Minnesota are suing the Administration for cutting funding for state-based programs that provide health coverage for low-income people. The states received notice that funding for their ACA authorized programs would be cut just one day before it happened. The New York Attorney General is quoted as calling the cuts “a cruel and reckless assault…”

The constant undermining of people’s health care coverage is unacceptable and should certainly not be considered an “accomplishment.”  And by no means should efforts to undermine the health care of Americans be expanded as proposed in the President’s budget.

B. Belton, February 14, 2018

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