Column: State should fight health care cuts
Alex Weberman had just graduated from college and was about to begin teaching underprivileged children when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Alex went through six rounds of chemotherapy, and treatment would have cost his family over $400,000 if not for protections under current law.
Alex is in remission. But we know that there will be fewer success stories like his if the Republican health care plan recently introduced in the U.S. Senate becomes law. The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the plan confirmed that 22 million Americans would lose their health insurance by 2026. Hundreds of thousands of those affected are in Michigan.
The House Republican plan is even worse. If they have their way, people with pre-existing conditions such as cancer, diabetes and autism would not be protected. In Michigan, more than four million people have pre-existing conditions, and they could soon find themselves priced out of coverage.
We believe this is unacceptable. More Michiganians have health insurance than ever before. We can’t in good conscience allow Republicans in Washington to take our state backward.
That’s why state House and Senate Democrats have come together to propose a “Michigan Health Care Bill of Rights” that blocks the most damaging parts of the health care proposal coming out of Washington, should they be passed into law. It is our responsibility, and within our purview as state legislators, to protect Michigan families who stand to see their health insurance costs skyrocket, and their coverage reduced or disappear completely.
Our plan ensures that people with pre-existing conditions won’t lose vital protections or be dumped into ineffective, and dangerous, high-risk pools. Older Americans won’t see changes that would force them to pay five times more, which some have dubbed an “age tax.”
Our plan stops insurance companies from being able to hike rates on people who get sick and need treatment, or add so-called “coverage caps,” which leave people with massive out-of-pocket costs that often force them into bankruptcy. It also protects people with employer-based health insurance from drastic rate increases and coverage caps.
Our “Health Care Bill of Rights” has one goal: to keep current state health care protections in place in the event that Republicans in Washington succeed in passing their health care cuts through Congress.
Why is it necessary? Because we’re already seeing Michigan Republicans seize upon their party’s proposed cuts in Washington by introducing legislation to cut the state’s successful, bipartisan Healthy Michigan plan. Other Republicans, like Gov. Scott Walker of neighboring Wisconsin, have said they’re interested in dropping protections for pre-existing conditions if the GOP plan is signed into law.
We can’t let that happen. If Republicans are truly committed to keeping protections for pre-existing conditions and preventing rising costs, they’ll join us and protect your health care by signing the Health Care Bill of Rights.
Standing together to protect people’s health care would be a great display of the bipartisanship that is so lacking in Washington. And it would be a big step to assure millions of Michiganians that their health care is safe from the political games being played in D.C. We hope Republicans will join us in this fight.
Sen. Sam Singh is the House Democratic leader and represents Michigan’s 69th district. Sen. Jim Ananich is the Senate minority leader and represents Michigan’s 27th district.