President Donald Trump's first executive order could be the first step in taking away health care from 27,000 Alaskans. Never in American history has a president's first act had the potential to result in citizens being exposed to the possibilities of premature death, allowing insurance companies to drop policy holders off our health care plans, or denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions. This action comes at a time when our state's economy is fragile and we are losing jobs and their benefits. This threatens our health and the survival of Alaskans who need health care, but also the strength of our economy. One of the strong points of our economy is the health care industry.
It is important for each one of us to understand how we could be affected. The order that cleared the way for the repeal of Obamacare could result in allowing insurance companies to cancel insurance plans when a person gets sick (also known as recission), and deny coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition. This can result in cancer patients dying because of insurance not covering their preexisting condition and ongoing treatment. These things happened before the passage of the Affordable Care Act and can happen again.
Elimination of the Affordable Care Act could eliminate matching funds that help families afford insurance. With Alaska having the most expensive health care in America, these federal matching funds are particularly important for Alaska families. It is important to note that this would allow a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and penalize those who least can afford it.
The potential cancellation of Medicaid expansion could not come at a worse time for Alaskans. Tens of thousands of Alaskans could lose Medicaid coverage, exposing them to health care crisis and financial ruin. Medicaid expansion has helped to maintain and create heath care jobs in Alaska, proving some protection for our economy when other sectors are laying off employees or simply not hiring. If Medicaid expansion is cancelled, Alaska will lose over $1 billion in federal support and many employment opportunities. We must encourage our congressional delegation to stand strong for Medicaid expansion in order to protect Alaskans who most need it.
All of this is at stake in any repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And we should fight against any repeal that clears the way for Trump's proposed tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
It is extremely important that Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan not support any repeal of the Affordable Care Act that would eliminate our existing health care benefits. Without their support it is unlikely the Senate could pass any bill that would significantly reduce or eliminate these important parts of our care.
Remember that only congressional action can actually repeal the provisions of the Affordable Care Act; Trump's executive order declared his intent, but he can't repeal the act on his own. It's vitally important we contact all three members of our delegation – Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan and Rep. Don Young — and tell them how important this is to each one of us. The House and Senate will decide on the fate of the Affordable Care Act.
Please do it today — call, email, or send a letter, but do it today!
Kevin McGee is first vice president and chairman of the Political Action Committee of the NAACP in Anchorage