Last year’s potential health care cuts would have devastated Louisiana community

Michael Chen, General Associate Editor

Last January, the Louisiana House of Representatives introduced a budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year which included multiple cuts to health care services, particularly those concerning mental health, substance abuse and adult day care services.

Due to the expiration of $1 billion in state sales taxes, both the state legislature and Governor John Bel Edwards were forced to look for other options to revive Louisiana’s decreasing budget. Despite Edwards’ vocal support on trying to renew the taxes in order to continue keeping alive state welfare programs, House Republicans have been adamant in letting these taxes expire, focusing on creating a reduced balanced budget.

Hanson Dai | Associate Artist

While a balanced budget is an imperative goal for any legislature, the cuts that were proposed last year have had long-lasting effects that are still felt by Louisiana citizens today. Passed with a 55 to 47 vote, Republicans successfully pushed forth, last April, a $27 billion operating budget that included major reductions in spending on health care services, specifically for the poor and the elderly.

On a closer level, almost 50,000 elderly and disabled residents would be removed from nursing homes and 24-hour medical services would be stopped. Eleven hospitals around state medical schools could no longer be funded by the state, some even threatening to go private. Further cuts would be focused on reducing substance abuse and mental health programs, drawing most of these reductions from the Medicaid program.

Robert Johnson, the Democratic Minority Leader of the Louisiana House of Representatives, stated that this proposal would “shut down hospitals, throw the elderly out of nursing homes, deny the sick treatment” — and it would have. Luckily, lawmakers decided to renew the sales taxes, leading to no major reductions planned to any health care programs.

The state of Louisiana should not be so willing to sacrifice the lives of its constituents, especially those who have spent most of their lives in the state, in its first budget proposal. To remove such a fundamental right from the disabled and the elderly is an incredibly cruel act that these lawmakers, who are not even affected by the cuts themselves, have ignorantly constituted.

Whether health care is a right has been the subject of constant debate between Republicans and Democrats for the last century. Yet, in America’s founding documents, it clearly states that health care should be a right.

The Preamble to the United States Constitution calls on the government to “promote the general Welfare” and the Declaration of Independence has stated that all United States citizens should have “unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Furthermore, in the past few years, the U.S. itself has signed World Health Assembly Resolution 58.33, a verdict from the World Health Organization to its member states noting that “health-financing systems in many countries need to be further developed in order to guarantee access to necessary services while providing protection against financial risk.”

In a country that is so divided about health care, it is hard to see past the political arguments and glance at the effects that reducing health care has on struggling families. Already saddled with worries, these families should not have to worry about the rising costs of keeping themselves healthy, too.

“Disease, sickness and old age touch every family,” Elizabeth Warren, Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator, said. “Tragedy doesn’t ask who you voted for.”

Health care is a basic human right.

Instead of working together to diminish beneficial welfare programs that oppose their political ideology, lawmakers should rethink their actions. With an election year coming up, these lawmakers should remember the voices and lives of their constituents when starting to draw up a new budget proposal.

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