Ohio’s next generation of doctors and health professionals: “No” to Senate healthcare bill

This op-ed was originally published by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. You can read the article here.5343361247_f84cc7a9a8_m

“We took an oath: “first, do no harm.” This health care bill will prevent our current and future patients from accessing the care they need, so we must stand against it.”

-Gloria Tavara and Nikhil Krishnan

As students from every single medical school across Ohio, we are the ones who will have to tell our patients “no” if the Senate health care bill passes.

We are the ones who will have to look mothers in the eye and tell them that there is no more Medicaid coverage for their children’s asthma. We are the ones who will have to tell our patients struggling with addiction that there is no longer any coverage for their rehabilitation treatment. We are the ones who will have to tell our cancer patients that because they no longer qualify for insurance subsidies, they must pay out of pocket for their chemo or die.

When hardworking middle-class families are driven into bankruptcy because of cuts in Medicaid, we will be unable to help them.

Sen. Rob Portman must oppose the Senate’s health care bill, and any phase-out of Medicaid expansion, so that these conversations never happen.

The American Health Care Act in the House, known in the Senate as the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, rolls back Medicaid expansion, mental health and drug treatment coverage, and preventative care. It undermines essential health benefits like maternity care and prescription drug coverage.

These changes will devastate patients in Ohio and across the nation. We cannot go backward.

The Senate health care bill will strip nearly a million Ohioans of their access to health care.

More than 800,000 Ohioans signed up for insurance after the Affordable Care Act passed, cutting Ohio’s uninsured population in half. If the ACA is replaced with the AHCA or the Senate version, tens of millions of Americans, including approximately 1 million Ohioans, will lose their coverage.

Ohio’s children will be among the hardest hit: They represent 51 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid population.

The American people understand what the AHCA and Senate health care bill represent, and they are afraid. Only 8 percent of Americans wanted the House version to pass, and changes from it to the Senate bill are minimal. The AHCA was rushed through the House in a secret process that excluded everyday Ohioans from a discussion that will impact every aspect of their lives. Now the Senate is attempting the same.

As the state hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, Ohio needs to expand access to addiction services, not decimate them.

Ohio has the highest number of prescription opioid overdose deaths of any state in the nation. Sen. Portman’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act prioritized “expanding treatment and recovery programs to help Ohioans struggling with addiction.” However, the Senate bill cuts Medicaid funding even more deeply than the House bill, which will lead to severe reductions in basic mental health and addiction services. So much is at stake. Sen. Portman’s support of the current health care bill would threaten to unravel all of the work our state has done to reduce addiction deaths in Ohio.

Killing Medicaid expansion means killing Ohioans.

Twenty-one percent of Ohioans receive health insurance through Medicaid, a successful, popular, bipartisan program which covers everything from nursing home care to education for disabled children. Despite higher-than-expected enrollment after Ohio’s Medicaid expansion, overall costs for the program were nearly $2 billion below original estimates.

The majority of Medicaid recipients live in rural communities, places that support Sen. Portman and expect him to support them in return. We know this, because we see these patients every day.

Sen. Portman knows this too: In March he wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to say that he would not support a plan that takes away stability from Medicaid expansion populations.

By agreeing to phase out Medicaid expansion, Sen. Portman has turned his back on the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who depend on Medicaid, including victims of Ohio’s opioid epidemic.

Sen. Portman will cast a deciding vote in the passage of the current health care bill. We urge Sen. Portman to carefully consider how this legislation will affect his constituents. This bill will kill our patients.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bill would do enormous damage to Ohio. That’s indisputable. That’s irrefutable. That’s fact. That’s why Sen. Rob Portman must stand up and vote no, writes the editorial board.

The medical community is united against this health care bill because we know it will destroy the health of our communities. The American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, the American Nurses Association, the National Physicians Alliance, the AARP, Physicians for a National Health Program, the National Medical Association, Universal Health Care Action Network, and many others have all come out against the AHCA and now stand against the Senate bill.

We took an oath: “first, do no harm.” This health care bill will prevent our current and future patients from accessing the care they need, so we must stand against it.

Gloria Tavara and Nikhil Krishnan are medical students at Case Western Reserve University and members of SNaHP.