Opinion: ACA repeal must protect Alaska's seniors
As we age, the more we need reliable health care, and an important part of the aging process is access to quality emergency and trauma care. As Republicans are looking to keep their promise to voters to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it’s important for lawmakers in Washington to understand how to repeal without continuing the damaging cuts to Medicare that were part of the ACA.
In 2010, as we all remember, there was a fierce debate around health care reform - what it would look like and how it would be paid for. And sadly, as I warned during the debate in 2010, much of the ACA was paid for on the backs of seniors. Specifically, the law used $700 billion from Medicare – including cuts to payments to hospitals and clinics that serve seniors - to pay for the law, so any repeal legislation should include making Medicare whole. To do so, Congress will need to include language that reverses the hospital payment reductions (reflecting inflation) in any ACA repeal legislation.
Our country needs health care reform but it’s not fair to do it on the backs of seniors. Seniors have paid into Medicare their entire working lives, banking on their government’s promise that they would have access to quality healthcare through Medicare. The government broke that promise when they extracted money from Medicare to pay for the ACA. The haste of fulfilling a campaign promise should not stand in the way of restoring those cuts, restoring the promise our government made to seniors.
RetireSafe fought against these cuts from the very beginning, it was bad then, and it’s bad now. Any repeal bill must restore those cuts so seniors won’t have to worry about whether or not they will receive the care they need when they need it most.
In rural Alaska, seniors often must turn to their local community hospital for care because there are so few other healthcare providers in their area. These hospitals have been suffering under the ACA due to these Medicare cuts, exacerbating the healthcare challenges for Alaska’s seniors.
Moreover, according to a recent economic study, if Congress does not restore the Medicare payments that were reduced as a pay-for to the ACA and update those payments for inflation, it would cost Alaska hospitals more than $500 million. With the lion’s share of the impact being on hospitals – particularly in rural communities – the impact on seniors would be devastating.
Thair Phillips is president and CEO of RetireSafe an advocacy organization for seniors.