HEALTH CARE DEBACLE?

Guess which parts of Maryland have the most people who have benefitted from the expansion of the Medicaid program? Of course, it is the state’s most rural and economically depressed areas- the Eastern Shore and far western Maryland.

Of course the Eastern Shore is Rep. Andy Harris’ district, yet he voted in favor of the horrific House bill intended to abolish the Affordable Care Act, or at least intended to allow Republicans to claim they abolished it. Even they don’t have the nerve to simply repeal it and go back to how things were before it took effect.

Do The Most Good members got a thorough briefing on the health insurance situation May 16 at the Ellicott City library, where Consumer Health First executive director Jeananne Sciabarra was the featured speaker.

Her message was filled with warnings, but also with hope and with a call to action, urging people to continue calling and contacting elected officials, helping Democrats in congressional elections and remaining involved.

Although the Congressional Budget Office won’t reveal its analysis of the so-called American Health Care Act until around May 22, Sciabarra said estimates are that 476,000 Marylanders could be denied coverage and another 2.5 million people with pre-existing conditions might be denied coverage  or be charged hugely higher premiums for insurance under that bill.

As if that weren’t enough, there is a laundry list of further outrages, such a restoration of lifetime limits on medical spending per person, loss of preventive services and wellness checks for seniors, , and loss of treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems, which are now required to be covered under the Affordable Care Act.

All of this is fine with Dr. Harris, of course, and the rest of the House Republicans who voted for it in the 217-213 tally. But don’t forget that  20 House Republicans opposed the bill.

The message from Sciabarra, a Howard County resident who worked on the Healthy Howard program before taking her current grassroots organizing job, wasn’t gloomy!

She pointed out that when Donald J. Trump was elected president, the expectation was that the ACA would be repealed on January 21. Instead, a million angry protestors swarmed Washington, and even months later, Trump’s first attempt at repeal failed. Even now, after the House passed a bill, the Senate has rejected it out of hand, so there is a good chance Republicans will never agree on anything as Trump loses momentum amid all his self-generated scandals.

“We have really been making a difference,” Sciabarra told the crowd. “These things are really having an impact.” She urged more efforts to influence congress, and Maryland governor Larry Hogan, who has so far said nothing about the controversies swirling around him, although they could drastically affect people in Maryland.

Hogan is our governor! Call or write his office. Demand that he take a public position and fight for our state! Also, next month is a special election in Georgia to replace Dr. Tom Price, now the Secretary of Health, Jan Oliver pointed out.  Find a way to help John Ossoff, the Democratic candidate, win that seat! What a message that would send, Oliver said. May 30, the Howard county Democratic party is sponsoring a phone bank in their offices on Oakland Mills road to help. volunteer!

Courtney Watson also pointed out that public pressure on the school board has resulted in the new diversity coordinator position gaining influence with the board, and Do The Most Good is wrapping up its first food drive to help the Howard County Food Bank.

Sciabarra said her group is also lobbying the Maryland Public Service Commission to prevent Care First from getting the 50% premium increases they are seeking for next year, and working with other state agencies to develop innovative ways of doing health care to bring prices down.

She pointed out that more and more people are seeing the wisdom of a Medicare for All health program that would cover everyone and eliminate insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles. HR676 would do that, as would a similar program U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders plans to introduce soon.

The next Do the Most good meeting is scheduled for June 22 at the Miller Library, at 7 p.m.

Larry Carson

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