The impact of today’s vote by the U.S. House will be devastating. More than a half-million residents of Cook County were able to obtain health care through the Affordable Care Act, many of them through expansion of Medicaid, like our own CountyCare program that has 140,000 participants.
Forty percent (40%) of our health plan members are now at risk of losing their coverage with no viable options. They may be forced to discontinue medicine for chronic diseases, return to the emergency room for basic health needs or wait until they are acutely ill to seek the most expensive care. Shamefully, in the wealthiest country in the world, people will be forced to decide between groceries, rent, utility bills or health care.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) taking effect, less than half of CCHHS patients were insured. Today, as a direct result of the ACA, that number is 70%. Conservatively, the loss of revenue to the Cook County Health & Hospitals System will exceed $300 million annually and could be as high as $800 million.
Cook County’s health fund allocation has decreased by more than $380 million in the past several years, largely due to the ACA. Without these funds or an increase in local or state revenues, our mission to care for all is at risk.
Make no mistake, this vote is guaranteed to result in more uninsured in Cook County requiring hospitals to make difficult decisions such as cutting service, laying off staff or worse, closing their doors.
Congress must understand that they are threatening lives with this reckless action. We will work with partners in government and the health care arena to oppose this measure and hope that common sense prevails in the Senate.
If we can’t agree that access to affordable healthcare is a fundamental human right, then our American values have been lost.