The elected officials stood in front of a projection that read, “The Republican Plan will Make America Sick Again,” a play on President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.
They argued that taking away Obamacare without a plan to replace it would ultimately hurt New Yorkers who have gained health coverage.
“We have a fight on our hands, and this is a fight we can win,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. “But it’s going to be an uphill battle. Everyone has a role to play in making sure that no changes to the Affordable Care Act takes place in this country.”
Velazquez stated that if the Republicans dismantle President Barack Obama’s signature health care policy, 30 million Americans, including 1.6 million New Yorkers, would lose coverage.
Another 2.7 million New Yorkers who enrolled in Medicaid will also lose their insurance, she said.
The congresswoman said kicking healthy young people off insurance rolls would mean older Americans will “see their premiums skyrocket.” She also said that means health care providers will be stuck with exploding costs in “uncompensated care” if patients seek treatment without health insurance.
“What we need to remember is that all elements of health care work together,” Velazquez said. “If you start chipping away at one part of the system, you will see disaster in other parts of the market.
“Our health care providers in New York are still going to take care of patients, that’s what they do,” she added. “This will simply mean a greater strain on medical resources and services.”
Velazquez listed the potential consequences of taking away Obamacare, such as young people no longer staying on their parents’ coverage until 26, patients with pre-existing conditions being denied, and women “once again facing gender discrimination” while trying to get covered.
Worst of all, Velazquez warned, Republicans don’t have a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act if they take it away.
“The Republicans’ repeal and replace is a sham. What will they replace the ACA with?” she said. “They have never, not once, put together a sensible, coherent plan to replace the ACA.”
She blasted House Speaker Paul Ryan for having an “obsession with privatizing, voucherizing, weakening and undermining Medicare,” which she said the country can’t turn its back on.
“If President Trump and Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell want to go after Medicare, I can promise you they will have a fight on their hands,” Velazquez said.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries criticized Republicans for engineering a “hostile takeover” of Washington with “obstruction and a fog of misinformation.” He encouraged Obamacare supporters to organize rather than agonize.
“We want to make sure that we organize Americans all across this country to push back against this phony effort to repeal and replace,” Jeffries said. “There is no replacement plan that Republicans have put forth to preserve all of the wonderful things the Affordable Care Act has done.
“We are not going to step back, we’re going to fight back,” he added. “When they put forth whatever extreme plan to strip away the Affordable Care Act, strip away Medicare and Medicaid, we’re going to fight them in Congress, fight them in the courts, fight them on television, fight them on radio, fight them on social media, and fight them in the streets all across this country.”
All four elected officials who spoke echoed their belief that health care is a right, rather than a privilege. Jeffries went so far as to say that the GOP’s main objective wasn’t just to repeal Obamacare.
“They want to end health care as we know it in America,” he said.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney called health care one of the greatest inequities in the country.
“It’s literally life or death,” she said. “If you have good health care, you’re healthy. If you don’t, you can possibly die.”
Backing an initiative pushed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Maloney encouraged 500,000 more New Yorkers to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare by the end of January.
Maloney and Velazquez alluded to six Republican senators who have insisted that Congress shouldn’t repeal Obamacare unless there is a replacement. Velazquez said she wants to make sure they vote against any repeal effort when it comes up.
If they vote against a repeal, Senate Republicans may not have the 51 votes necessary to dismantle Obamacare, Velazquez said.
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke also chimed in, highlighting the costs many insured people no longer have to pay. She later mocked the Republicans’ attempt to replace the law.
“I have a copy of the Republican health care plan right here,” Clarke said, holding up a blank sheet of paper. “It’s nothing.”
The officials invited health care executives in New York City to speak about the impact of losing the Affordable Care Act. Stanley Brezenoff, acting president of NYC Health & Hospitals, said ACA provides many resources for hospitals in the city.
“We are also a safety net organization, providing care to people based on their health status, not their income, insurance or immigration status,” he said. “But we need resources to do that job. Reducing our resources makes it that much more difficult, even in some ways impossible, to do the job that is required.”
Dr. Isaac Dapkins from NYU Lutheran Family Health Center in Sunset Park said thanks to Obamacare their patient rolls went up from 110,000 to 123,000. That means more community members, the vast majority of whom are Medicare recipients, now have access to care.
He pointed out that the Affordable Care Act helps fund training for future health care professionals and funds outreach and enrollment workers, as well.
“This notion of repealing the Affordable Care Act creates an environment of uncertainty,” Dapkins said. “It’s incredibly important that if there must be a plan for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which I do not agree with, then there must be a plan to replace it. The replacement better be at least as good because we can’t leave people to suffer.”