Op-Ed: We need Medicare for All, Not a Heartless Healthcare Bill

Op-Ed: We need Medicare for All, Not a Heartless Healthcare Bill

By Barb Kalbach, Iowa CCI Action Fund president

As a cardiac rehabilitation nurse in rural Iowa, I spent 10 years helping patients recover from procedures like valve replacements and heart bypasses. I saw patients survive against the odds, thanks to incredible health care provided in our state’s rural hospitals.

Now all of us in rural Iowa – including our hospitals – face a grave threat with the health care repeal passed by the House. The only way we’ll survive is by making sure our senators stop it.

That includes our Senators Grassley and Ernst, who will put a whole lot of our children, parents, and grandparents at risk if they vote for this terrible health repeal.

The Congressional Budget Office says the legislation will throw 23 million people off coverage – with 14 million tossed off Medicaid alone. An older person with limited income will be hit with premium hikes as high as 850 percent.

I won’t mince words. This legislation is heartless.

The bill is far more radical and far worse than we’ve been led to believe by the people supposed to represent us.

That’s because the bill passed in the House doesn’t just roll back the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” The bill also tears Medicaid to shreds.

And I’m not talking just about the portion of Medicaid that we expanded with funding from the ACA. Our representatives in D.C. want to gut the whole Medicaid program, cutting $834 billion. They’re also ending the guarantee that the federal government will fund our care according to how much each state’s patients need and receive.

This legislation also starves Medicaid of funds. That means rationing – anything from waiting lists to services slashed or to even lower reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals.

So, get ready to take care of your aging parents. Medicaid might not be there to cover all the services they need. Get ready for people with disabilities to lose care that helps them live independently. And get ready to see children and adults losing treatments and services they need – if they’re not pushed out of the program entirely.

You should also get ready to see your local hospital fight for its own survival. That’s because Medicaid has always been a lifeline for hospitals in rural Iowa, and the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act has made a real difference for us.

Medicaid is important to our community and our patients. Almost 150,000 Iowans have gained coverage through the expansion, more than a third of whom of live in rural Iowa. This expansion helped cut the nonelderly uninsured rate almost in half here.

And that hasn’t just benefited those Iowans. It’s helped all of us because our hospitals are stronger for it. Rural hospitals have especially benefited from Medicaid expansion in terms of our operating margins, revenue gains, and ability to serve our communities.

I’m all for fixing problems in health care, including getting deductibles, premiums, and the cost of prescription drugs down.

If our representatives in Washington, D.C. really wanted to fix these problems, they’d open Medicare to everyone so we’re not held hostage by insurance companies. And they could require Medicare to negotiate lower prices from drug corporations, just like the Veterans Administration does for those they serve.

Those would be solutions.

It’s no solution to take a lifeline away from working-class and middle-class families and from the local hospitals we all depend on – it’s the furthest thing from a solution.

Senators Grassley and Ernst shouldn’t sign this death sentence. They should vote against cutting Medicaid – including turning it into a block grant to states – and instead push for Medicare for All.

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Barb Kalbach is the president of the Iowa CCI Action Fund and a cardiac rehab nurse from rural Adair County.

Medicare for All will be featured at CCI Action’s July 15 convention in Des Moines.  Senator Bernie Sanders will keynote the event.  For more information, call 515.255.0800 or go to: http://cciaction.org/july15/

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Barb Kalbach, letter to the editor, The Des Moines Register, June 19, 2017, http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2017/06/18/we-need-medicare-all-not-heartless-health-care-bill/403825001/.

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