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GUEST COLUMN Congress pulled plug on our friends, co-workers, neighbors, loved ones
by Ramon Gardenhire
2017-05-17

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Seven years ago, I sat with my friend Kali in his Brooklyn apartment and watched, in amazement and a little bit of shock, as Congress enacted into law the Affordable Care Act ( ACA ). On that day, I knew that decades of work from thousands of people toward making healthcare accessible to all—not just to the wealthy, the able-bodied, the people in power—was worth it.

I watched a livestream of a very different vote in the U.S. House recently with my colleagues at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. My feelings couldn't have been more different than they were seven years ago. It's depressing and maddening to think that the hard work and victories America has made over healthcare inequity could be lost for good if the Republican agenda led by President Donald Trump succeeds. I immediately thought of my late uncle, who died last year from AIDS-related complications in Texas because the state wouldn't expand Medicaid—a clear foreshadowing of efforts of Republicans to undermine the health of millions.

Trump's plan, the American Health Care Act ( AHCA ), couldn't be more different than its predecessor, the ACA. If passed, the hastily assembled AHCA would kick 24 million Americans off insurance, allow insurance companies to not cover pre-existing conditions again, cut $880 billion out of Medicaid, and far worse.

Meanwhile, America already has a healthcare plan that helps more than 24 million Americans and over 1.2 million Illinoisans thrive, including 12,000 people living with HIV in Illinois! The ACA guarantees things like health insurance coverage for cancer screenings and flu shots, access to high-quality marketplace plans ( and financial assistance to purchase insurance coverage ), and perhaps most importantly, an incredible opening of the doors to better public health through the expansion of Medicaid.

Despite an outpouring of resistance from constituents around the country and in Illinois, the U.S. House, including all seven Illinois House Republicans, pulled the plug on the American people. Several of those Illinois House Republicans broke promises they made to their constituents when they voted for the AHCA, saying they would preserve care for vulnerable Illinoisans while voting to dismantle the system that provides that lifesaving care. Shame on them!

We now turn our attention to the Senate. We must make them hear the voices and see the faces of the 1.2 million Illinoisans who rely on the healthcare access that the ACA and Medicaid provide. We will not allow this bill to become law. Together, we will save our care!

Ramon Gardenhire oversees AIDS Foundation of Chicago's advocacy and policy work at the federal, state and local level. He previously served as AFC's Director of Government Relations from 2011 to 2013, working in Springfield to enact sound HIV/AIDS public policy, defend the rights of people with HIV, and advocate for increased services and prevention for people living with and vulnerable to HIV. Before coming to AFC, Ramon worked at the SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana, Federation for Community Schools, Young Democrats of America, National Democratic Committee, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Academy of Physician Assistants, where he worked on state level political and legislative initiatives. He has a Bachelor's degree from Slippery Rock University and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University Law School. Learn more at aidschicago.org .


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