Williams, Advocates Slam Graham-Cassidy Bill; Claim Healthcare Is A Right

Judith Cutchins, President of the New York State Nurses Association, addressing a crowd of Graham-Cassidy Bill Protestes at City Hall

City Council member Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood) alongside dozens of elected officials and healthcare advocates stood in solidarity to oppose the last-minute push by Senate Republicans to repeal Obamacare.

In a last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Republicans have been pushing to pass the newest iteration of “Trump Care,” known as the Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill. The bill would block-grant federal health care funding to the states which will include changes to Medicaid expansion, tax credits, employer mandates and cost-sharing subsidies and will allow states to ease coverage requirements.

According to the New York City Department of Health, the current Obamacare plan provides $12 million in federal funding to the city in the form of health education programs, preventative care programs, research and testing, chronic illness management programs and the opioid epidemic among other initiatives.

The measure would affect 1.6 million New Yorkers, who currently rely on ACA as their primary form of health care, while an overall 32 million Americans could be  left without health insurance by 2027, according to the Brookings Institution.

At the rally, Williams pleaded with fellow lawmakers City Councilman Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Greenpoint) in asking Senate Republicans to not pass the bill citing the liability the bill would be to the lives of struggling New Yorkers.

City Councilmember Jumaane Williams

“National political actions have local, human consequences. Republicans in Congress who are supporting Graham-Cassidy are grotesquely neglecting the people I represent in Brooklyn and around the country, whose lives depend on the decisions made in Washington,” said Williams.

The measure has a Sept. 30 deadline, which is the last day Republicans can pass a repeal bill with only 50 votes, instead of the necessary 60, due to special budget rules designed to foil a Democratic filibuster. Republicans currently hold a majority in the Senate with 52 representatives to 48 Democrats. If the legislation were to get 50 votes, Vice President Mike Pence is expected to break a tie in favor of the bill.

According to NPR, yesterday, Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana defended their bill at a hearing in front of the Senate Finance Committee. The hearing is the first step in the repeal process of Obamacare as Republicans look to pass the legislation with only four days left before this Saturday’s deadline.

However, late last night, the bill lost critical support from Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who came out against the bill, joining fellow Republicans Rand Paul (R-KY) and John McCain (R-AZ).  The move leaves the GOP majority with one vote short of the necessary 50 votes needed to pass the bill over the Democratic opposition bloc.

Brooklynite and President of the NYS Nurses Association, Judith Cutchins, was quick to note the impact the bill would have on minority neighborhoods.

“We [nurses] urge everyone to say, ‘enough is enough, we can not take this anymore!’ We need to send a message to the Republicans in Washington that we will fight until the very end for the cause of our patients. The bill would devastate a lot of the people in our neighborhoods and community because we have a lot of patients with pre-existing conditions and illnesses, that are from immigrant backgrounds. As a nurse I am afraid for my patients and as a patient I am afraid of the bill,” said Cutchins.

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