Whose report will you believe?
This is the question Joshua asked his community when he returned to give his findings after a spy trip to the edge of the so-called “Promised Land.” After Joshua invested in his community at age 45, he lived to age 85 expecting a return on his investment. (Joshua 14) Far removed from the era of Israelites spying on land, many Americans find themselves wondering who to believe in the national debate about healthcare. For some, it is the fierce urgency of now because of sick relatives who need the Affordable Care Act to remain in place in order to avoid a lapse in coverage, which could lead to a lapse in medication and as a consequence, the premature death of loved ones. For others, it is the constant barrage of misinformation about the intent of the House Bill entitled The American Healthcare Act (AHCA), passed on May 4, 2017 or the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) presently being considered by the Senate. For me, the question comes down to the long-term effects upon an aging population of Americans who have labored long and hard to receive the benefits of the Medicare Part A trust fund. Why? Plain and simple, I care about my elders.
My maternal aunt who is now 97 years of age and the remaining matriarch of my family worked for over 40 years in the Lea Lumber & Plywood Company. For a significant period of that time, she was the only black female in the plant. She left for work at 5:30 am and returned home at 3:30 pm every day. Everyday. She endured a great deal of what she calls “prejudice” during those times. Frequently she told of how her male counterparts received a raise because they were the “heads of households,” when she, then a single woman, received none. Nevertheless, she stood her ground and worked until she reached “retirement age.” In today’s economic climate, her small pension barely pays the light bill.
It’s my hope that my aunt will continue to live and thrive. But the uncertainty about healthcare, as she knows it, keeps me up at night. At the present moment, she still lives in her home surrounded by some loving community based care givers. What happens if the power elites in Washington, DC vote to repeal and replace Obamacare thereby making changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that places my aunt and others like her in jeopardy of losing precious benefits that pay for hospital, skilled nursing facilities, home health, and hospice benefits?
Frankly, I am unwilling to believe the reports out of Washington. So, I did my own digging. If you care about your elders you should to. What I found out is that both bills, the one passed by the House and the one being considered by the Senate would “repeal the Medicare payroll surtax on high-income earners, which was added by the ACA, effective January, 2023. That provision, which took effect in 2013, provides additional revenue for the Part A trust fund, which pays for hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health, and hospice benefits. The Part A trust fund is financed primarily through a 2.9 percent tax on earnings paid by employers and employees (1.45 % each). The ACA (Obamacare) increased the payroll tax for a minority of taxpayers with relatively high incomes – those earning more than $200,000.00/individual and $250,000.00/couple – by 0.9 percentage points. In addition to repealing the ACA’s Medicare payroll surtax, both bills would repeal virtually all other tax and revenue provisions in the ACA, including the annual fee paid by branded prescription drug manufacturers, which would decrease revenue to the Part B trust fund. The bills would also reinstate the tax deduction for employers who receive Part D Retiree Drug Subsidy (RDS) payments, which would increase Medicare Part D spending.” Both bills will severely increase the number of uninsured people, not the least of which are our elders.
Armed with this information, I immediately began looking at how my vote could impact this phenomenon. I feel compelled to do something. As of July, 2017, the Republican Senate majority is 52 to 46 with two independents who largely caucus with the Democrats. The House Republicans hold a 240-vote majority over the Democratic party’s 194 votes. The 2018 mid-term elections are crucial. What matters most to me is not party line affiliation. It is that we have a chance to bend the ark of justice towards greater equity for the seasoned members of our democracy who deserve better than what we are currently providing. The most vulnerable in this demographic are people like my aunt. The embedded bias that she worked in for 40 years is now resurfaced in a more nuanced system of oppression that makes her racialized and gendered socio-economic status once again subservient to a governmental regime destined to reduce, no, nullify her humanity and render her needs incongruent with the sacrosanct privilege of the wealthy power elites. I will not stand for it. The folks in my aunt’s generation believed in a serious work ethic. They believed in an American democracy that rewarded hard work with rest and provision. I believe the report that says those who have labored among us should be taken care of in the best way possible. Anything less is downright evil.
Juliette Cubanski and Tricia Neuman, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.org “What Are the Implications for Medicare of the American Health Care Act and the Better Care Reconciliation Act?” July 6, 2017, retrieved July 18, 2017 at 2:30 pm from http://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/what-are-the-implications-for-medicare-of-the-american-health-care-act-and-the-better-care-reconciliation-act.
United States Congress Elections, 2018, BallotPedia.org, retrieved July 18, 2017 at 2:57 pm from https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Congress_elections,_2018 .