By SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Crusader Staff Writer
As members of Congress returned to their home districts this week during recess, they were confronted with tough questions about what their plans are to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that provides affordable healthcare to millions of Americans. Although the House Republicans have voted over 60 times to eliminate the ACA, or “Obamacare,” the GOP has yet to release comprehensive legislation of what the “replacement” should be.
This fact prompted Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, along with healthcare and hospital workers from SEIU Local 73 and SEIU Healthcare Illinois, to hold a joint press conference and rally outside Stroger Hospital with signs that said, “Congress: what’s your plan for healthcare?”
Preckwinkle said, “The ACA has changed the face of healthcare. It has had a positive impact on our communities and our economy, and most importantly, it has provided dignity to the patients we serve. So today, it is perfectly reasonable to ask those who would destroy a system that has done so much for so many – What’s Your Plan? We cannot and should not go backwards. We must protect this basic human right.”
Repealing the Affordable Care Act will take away healthcare for more than 30-million Americans and cause an estimated 1,150,000 Illinoisans to lose health insurance coverage. In addition, gutting the ACA will cost at least 114,000 job losses just in Illinois by 2019 with further economic damage to the state to come.
Such a nightmare scenario would cause chaos for working families unable to get affordable health insurance. Cook County’s and Illinois’ safety net hospital system would be at risk, and hospitals and clinics might be forced to close. Thousands of jobs could be lost, burdening taxpayers with enormous unforeseen financial repercussions and spiraling health insurance premiums.
“Repealing the ACA would put our patients in real danger,” said Sylvia White, MSW, a Psychiatric Social Worker in the Cook County Health and Hospitals System. “Access to vital services and affordable critical care will cease to exist and lives would be put at risk for no reason. We cannot allow this to happen.
“Republicans suddenly say they care about our economy. Yet repealing the Affordable Care Act will cause Illinoisans to lose health insurance coverage and the loss jobs. This isn’t conservative – this is just a con,” said Nettie Newman, a home healthcare worker for over 20 years.
The long-term damage to repealing the ACA means the incentives for early detection of disease could be gutted. Approximately 5.9 million Illinoisans with private health coverage (including 1.2 million children) and 2.1 million Illinois seniors on Medicare will lose guaranteed access to free preventive care, like blood pressure screenings, immunizations, and cancer screenings.
Safety net hospitals could be forced to close if the ACA is repealed, due to stripping away resources and Medicaid funding. Wellington Thomas, an ER technician from Loretto Hospital on the west side of Chicago said losing more community hospitals would cause a major downward spiral. “If Loretto Hospital were to close, our community – which is already struggling for lack of opportunity and spiraling violence – would be utterly shattered. Where would the individuals and patients who need mental health counseling and psychiatric medication go to get care? Where would children who are shot and injured go for emergency care? For those of us in the trenches in our emergency rooms, the idea of destroying Obamacare is a nightmare scenario for our communities.”