In Trumplandia, health is looking more like a luxury good and less like a basic American freedom. The most recent version of Trumpcare threatens to strip billions in funding for programs like Medicaid, a government-subsidized healthcare program upon which four million Floridians rely.
At a press conference on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) railed against Republicans who she said pushed Trumpcare and privileged political gain over fundamental human needs.
"Under the guise of repealing the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans and the White House took a hard right turn. They went to the heart of the Affordable Care Act and eliminated that protection against discrimination for pre-existing conditions." said Castor. “But also they want to transform the 50-year-old guarantee that Medicaid provides to so many of our neighbors” who rely on the program for access to treatment for chronic conditions.
Tampa resident Guttenberg Pierre spoke alongside Castor to advocate for people with pre-existing conditions. Pierre, who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, said the effects of the proposed legislation are “frightening” for uninsured people with life-threatening pre-existing conditions.
Pierre said Trumpcare endangers the lives of folks with lifelong conditions like HIV, which is infecting Floridians at an increasing rate.
"It’s only a chronic condition if you have the services and medication to make it a chronic condition,” he said. “So without services ... without going to the doctor on a regular basis it becomes, pretty much, a terminal illness.”
Trumpcare would cut $880 billion from Medicaid, effectively depriving millions of people of healthcare coverage.
“One of the insidious things about this healthcare repeal and Trumpcare bill, is it cuts the billions of dollars that go to support our neighbors that need it and transfers that money to the wealthiest special interests in the country," said Castor.
Castor admonished Republicans for undermining Medicaid, a program the congresswoman described as a “fundamental guarantee” that children, senior citizens, folks with pre-existing conditions and disabilities could access vital healthcare services.
Under the Republican bill, women in Florida stand to suffer some of the hardest losses in a state that already limits access to Medicaid. Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families program at the University of South Florida, explained that cutbacks could increase the number of uninsured women.
“Not expanding Medicaid in Florida has kept us from reducing our uninsured rate by nearly fifty percent,” Ray said.
Nonetheless, “programs like Medicaid are actually having a significant impact on children getting access to care, specifically in a state like Florida,” said Ray, who was joined by a crowd of advocates warning that Trumpcare would cut healthcare for kids and pose hardship for mothers and families.
Representatives from patient and advocacy organizations at the conference called on Republican senators to prevent that from happening.
“This Mother’s Day, the best gift Florida mothers could receive is a commitment from Florida Senators Rubio and Nelson to join in opposition to the House Republican healthcare bill that increases worries for moms, while giving the rich and corporations more big breaks,” said a representative from advocacy group Organize Florida. “We should be building on the success of existing programs to improve healthcare for mothers and families, not destroying the current system and starting from scratch.”
Also at the event was Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera, whose older brother has a developmental disability. Viera said the treatment afforded by Medicaid helps parents provide “dignity and independence” for children with disabilities.
"This isn't a Republican or Democrat issue, this is a human issue. This is an American issue,” he said.
Castor and Viera are part of a cohort of Florida Democrats ardently against Republican restrictions on healthcare funding. Speaking at a roundtable on opioid addiction treatment yesterday, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Pete) called Trumpcare “disastrous.”
Meanwhile, Senator Bill Nelson has criticized Governor Rick Scott for not expanding Medicaid. In April, Scott cut a deal with the Trump administration that will bring in $1.5 billion in federal funds for hospital services at a cost of $600 million to the state of Florida. Had Scott expanded Medicare, said Nelson, Florida would have received $5 billion in federal funds at a cost of $250 million for the state of Florida.
“It’s just ridiculous,” said Nelson of the recent play in Scott’s ongoing saga with Medicare.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration maintains that the Republican plan would help “the most vulnerable” Americans access healthcare. But for many advocates, it’s the latest dog whistle calling for the richest to leapfrog over those who stand to lose the most in the great state of Trumplandia.
For more, visit Creative Loafing.