The health care debate affects all

As I’ve traveled across Minnesota in recent months, Minnesotans have made it clear to me just how important health care is to them, their families, and their communities. They want to know that when they are sick or injured they can get the care they need.

Because health care is so important, most people in Minnesotans understand what’s at stake as they’ve watched Congressional Republicans continue push to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a plan that will rip health coverage from 23 million people, raise health costs, gut Medicaid, and eliminate nationwide protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

I have had meetings in large and small Minnesota communities during which I’ve heard parents tearfully describe their struggle to get care for family members with chronic health conditions and their anxiety about the financial and emotional burden of supporting an elderly loved one in a nursing home. They are worried about what the Republican plan would mean to them.

I’ve also heard from health care providers, who have told me they likely won’t be able to deliver many of the essential services their patients and communities need if the Republican plan is enacted.

Unfortunately, Republicans are recklessly moving forward with their destructive efforts and may hold a Senate vote on their bill in just a few weeks, despite the fact that this bill remains at its core a giant tax break for the wealthy at the expense of care for the poor and vulnerable. If this bill passes, millionaires would receive an average tax break of more than $50,000 apiece each year and the 400 highest-income taxpayers, with annual incomes above $300 million, will do even better, with an average annual tax break of $7 million each.

Republican Medicaid cuts are ‘personal’
Minnesotans understand that this bill will harm the health and well-being of millions of people in our state and across the country.

The proposed Medicaid cuts offer a clear example. The Republican bill would cut $834 billion from Medicaid, which covers more than half of all nursing home residents, half of all births and is the primary source of coverage for people with disabilities.

Need to work together
While the ACA has not been without challenges, most Americans want Congressional Republicans to end their divisive effort to repeal it, and instead do what we should have been doing all along: working together to improve it and build on its progress.

This important health care debate will impact people across our state in profound ways. As millions of Americans struggle to keep their heads above water – pay their bills, raise their kids, care for their parents and cope with health problems – they need our help, not a plan that undercuts those efforts. That’s why I oppose the Republican plan and will fight to make health care better for all Americans.

Al Franken represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate.