Voters ask senators to reconsider ACA repeal

The League of Women Voters of Louisiana sent a letter to Louisiana Senators John Neely Kennedy and Bill Cassidy requesting not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” in the absence of a viable alternative.

The letter, issued on Jan. 9, called on both senators to “act in a non-ideological and non-partisan manner and do what is best for Louisiana and [their] constituents.” There has been no response from either representative.

The League of Women Voters of the United States is a grassroots advocacy group that operates independently of political partisanship. Health care has been a central point for members of the League in both its Louisiana chapter and the organization’s national level.

The organization has supported a universal or “single-payer” system since 1993. It backed the ACA since 2010 and is opposed to the current movement in the federal government to repeal and replace the legislation.

“The League believes that the Affordable Care Act was in the right direction,”  LWVLA Healthcare Program Chair Linda Hawkins said.

Hawkins said while the ACA had some problems, the League of Women Voters supports a single-payer system in the U.S. as it believes the single-payer system could help address disparities and equity issues.

Under the ACA, states have the option to extend Medicaid benefits to all individuals at or below 138 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Louisiana is one of 25 states that voluntarily initiated this expansion. As of Jan. 1, 347,087 Louisiana citizens and 63 percent of Louisiana women were covered under Medicaid. If the ACA is repealed, these people would be at risk of losing health care coverage.

Opponents of the ACA have recently proposed a system of “block grants” to replace Medicaid expansion. This plan, supported by both Senators Kennedy and Cassidy, would provide states with federal funding, but structuring and implementing a specific plan would be left to each state.

According to Hawkins, these changes would be harmful to state governments and Louisiana in particular.

“If there were, let’s say, another [Hurricane] Katrina that came in, the federal government would not be responsible for helping and the medical costs would be up to the states,” Hawkins said. “… It will not work for us, and it will not work for many states.”

The League, which focuses on representing women’s interests in Louisiana, is also concerned that repealing the ACA and Medicaid might mean that funding for women’s, family and reproductive health care would be cut.

“When we’re looking at the Affordable Care Act or providing healthcare … we have a lot of issues in Louisiana,” Hawkins said. “But do we, being the population, have an obligation to provide healthcare to everyone as needed? Or … is it something that should be subject to the marketplace influences?”

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