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Letters to the Editor: Scott made the right call in opposing GOP health bill

Editor’s note: The writer is the owner of 3 Squares Cafe in Vergennes and is a board member of Main Street Alliance of Vermont.
The Graham-Cassidy Health Amendment to H.R. 1628 went up in flames last week and small businesses across Vermont and nation breathed a sigh of relief. The GOP’s latest attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would have created difficulties for small business owners, their employees and their families that rely on the ACA for access to healthcare critical to their survival. The Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal would have stripped many of them of their health coverage.
While legislators in Congress squabbled behind closed doors over a bill that would significantly harm small business owners and their employees, damage local economies, and decimate state budgets, here in Vermont we saw a different story. Vermont’s political leaders saw Graham-Cassidy for the disaster it would be and came out in a unified stance against the repeal attempt. For Vermont’s Republican Gov. Phil Scott this meant crossing party lines.
Gov. Scott was one of nine GOP governors who stood in opposition to Republicans in Congress as they attempted to roll back healthcare for millions of Americans. Gov. Scott deserves credit for standing up and protecting healthcare coverage for thousands of Vermonters.
Graham-Cassidy would have eliminated Medicaid expansion under the ACA, which has extended coverage to 66,000 low-income Vermonters. It would have also eliminated ACA marketplace subsidies, which currently help nearly 20,000 low- and moderate-income working Vermonters afford healthcare coverage. Many small business owners and employees gained access to affordable coverage under the ACA.
Unfortunately, Graham-Cassidy won’t be the last repeal attempt of the ACA we see from the GOP. With Republicans holding control in both houses of Congress and Trump in the White House it is very unlikely that this will be the last time that access to affordable healthcare coverage for Vermonters comes under attack from D.C. Republicans are looking to use the federal budget process to make massive and sweeping cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and then turn around and give large tax breaks to corporations.
While the ACA is far from the perfect healthcare solution for this country it should serve as a building block for us to extend from, not the aiming point for a tear down and a return to the days were medical treatment was viewed strictly through a health insurance lens rather than healthcare.
Approximately 161,000 Vermonters are enrolled in Medicare and cuts to that program or the removal of the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, coupled with spending cuts, would force vulnerable and working families to pay more for vital healthcare services, resulting in a reduction in their disposal income and the amount of money they can spend on goods and services. Ultimately, small business owners would see a decline in customers.
Healthcare funding is a problem that won’t be going away anytime soon and Gov. Scott taking a national stand was the right thing to do and that Vermont was on the right side of this debate makes me proud. It was also a smart political calculation to protect the ACA with health insurance and funding for so many Vermonters on the line. In Vermont, there isn’t much political risk to opposing legislation supported by an unpopular Trump administration, it is an easy strategy to win the votes of independents in Vermont.
The challenges Vermont faces in healthcare, economic growth, and affordability won’t be as easily solved as the sinking of Graham-Cassidy and will require even more non-partisan work and cooperation to develop a solution that works for Democrats, Republicans and more importantly all Vermonters. I’m curious to see if the governor can bring this same courageous spirit to our state-level challenges.
Matt Birong
Vergennes

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