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Advocates brace for long-term ACA fight
by Matt Simonette
2017-04-05

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The GOP's disastrous rollout of the Affordable Health Care Act ( ACHA ) legislation may have offered hope to Americans relying on the Affordable Care Act ( ACA ), as well as advocates working on their behalf, but Ramon Gardenhire, vice-president of policy for AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ), warned that celebration is premature.

Speaking at a March 30 AFC breakfast in the downtown offices of the Baker McKenzie law firm, Gardenhire noted that, just two days earlier, Republicans had vowed to revive the ACHA, and, in the meantime, could try to weaken ACA with "a thousand administrative cuts."

ACA's impact on Illinois LGBTs has been considerable, he added. Between 2013 and 2015, the number of uninsured LGBTs was almost cut in half, shrinking from 21.7 percent to 11.1 percent. In 2012, 22 percent of individuals with HIV were uninsured; by 2015, that number had been reduced to 15 percent.

Advocates joining Gardenhire spoke at length about how to fortify support for ACA as it comes under fire in the years ahead. Christopher Nolan, MD, of Rush University Medical Center, discussed how health care needs to be better framed as a matter of social justice.

"People not being able to access healthcare is an injustice and should be called or as such," Nolan said. "...When we have policies in place that question the validity of access and rights, we have a commitment to fight and question."

Another physician, Cori Blum, M.D., of Howard Brown Health, said that ACA has been a boon to her patient population. While Howard Brown clients still have to contend with onerous "prior-approval" requirements, she noted, the ACA's structure "improves quality across the board."

Blum added, "It's very concerning to me ... that people we work with will be impacted by these proposed threats."

Zsea Bowmani of ACLU Illinois noted that large numbers of transgender individuals rely on Medicaid and that numerous intersecting socio-economic factors complicate health care delivery, even when its financing scheme is not under attack from the government.

Julio Rodriguez, of Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action ( ALMA ), encouraged audience members to determine how their own work can best fortify the ACA in the years ahead. "We need to expand this room, so people see the intersects between the work they're doing and the work on the ACA," he said.

Rodriguez noted that employers had an especially large responsibility. While some employers might laud less-stringent requirements with a weakened ACA, to do so would be detrimental in the long-run.

"You have to approach this from a talent-development standpoint," he said.

United Way of Metropolitan Chicago's Alexandrea Murphy moderated the panel.


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