‘Replace before repeal,’ healthcare workers tell Congress

Capitol Hill
Healthcare workers met with members of Congress to urge them not to leave patients without health insurance if the ACA is repealed.

A group of nurses, doctors and healthcare workers met with members of Congress Tuesday and urged them to put a program in place that will protect their patients before any action is taken to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“They need to replace before they repeal,” Debra Friedland, RN, an inpatient nurse for 23 years at St. John’s Hospital in Rockaway, New York, which serves low-income patients, said during a telebriefing. Repealing the healthcare reform law, which President-elect Donald Trump and Republican leaders have pledged to do, will create “healthcare chaos for our patients,” she said, if they are left without health insurance.

The healthcare professionals from the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1 million healthcare workers around the country, hosted the telebriefing, saying a rush by Republican leaders to repeal the ACA could have “disastrous consequences” for working people, seniors and children. At the same time, 200 nurses and healthcare workers who traveled to Washington met with their state’s congressional delegations, including Republicans.

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“I’m here standing up for my patients on Capitol Hill. … Our patients are scared,” said Anestine Bentick, a clinic worker at South Boston Community Health Center in Boston. The opioid crisis is very serious in South Boston, and Bentick said she feared repeal of the ACA will hurt efforts to treat patients with addiction problems. Last week, a patient at the health center let his insurance lapse and learned that a one-month supply of Suboxone, a drug used to treat addiction, would cost him $1,000, she said. The health center was able to get his insurance renewed quickly, she said.

In the meetings with members of Congress, the healthcare workers asked them to lay out their plan to keep the 22 million Americans covered under the ACA with health insurance, to prevent the loss of insurance protections for those with preexisting conditions and to highlight how limiting Medicaid to block grants would affect seniors, children and people with disabilities.

President-elect Donald Trump, along with some Republicans, have said their first order of business is repeal of the ACA, although they plan to keep some provisions, including preventing insurers from denying coverage to people based on preexisting conditions.