Home Opinion OPINION: GOP kills critical Ohio program in crusade against Obamacare

OPINION: GOP kills critical Ohio program in crusade against Obamacare

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What is going on with the Republicans and Obamacare? Opinion writer Tim Zelina says the GOP is sabotaging programs designed to make health care more accessible in Ohio.

Opposition to the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” has been the GOP’s rallying cry for nearly seven years. When Republicans swept the national government in 2016, Obamacare was largely thought to be a “dead bill walking.” Repeal and replace seemed imminent, and the nation braced for another upheaval in the medical world.

Unexpectedly, the GOP’s repeal plan has yet to materialize, nearly nine months into Trump’s first term. Three haphazard efforts failed, one notable for the spectacular defection of Sen. John McCain, and the GOP was humiliated nationally. For now, Obamacare has been granted a temporary respite as the GOP shifts focus to tax reform. Repeal and replace will have to wait for next year.

That has not stopped the GOP from cruelly sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, a lifesaving act to many, to turn people against it. One such attack on decency has occurred in Ohio University’s very own home state.

The Ohio Association of Foodbanks has been operating a program where its assists the recipients of food aid in navigating the health care market. This is a common effort across much of the country, generally known as a “Navigator Program.”

While it seems strange food banks are operating such a program, it has a very practical basis. Food banks are used by mostly the poor and elderly, who also often have trouble finding time or transportation to travel from home. A one-stop shop for grabbing food and getting enrolled in an insurance plan is very convenient.

Obamacare’s changes and expansions are massive, and navigating the health care market is very difficult and confusing. If done alone, it requires a considerable amount of time. Since many of Ohio’s elderly and impoverished population would have great difficulty finding a health care plan best for them, the food banks help them. Medicaid expansions have made this a very important effort, as millions of people across the country who weren’t eligible for medicare now are, and deserve to both know that they are eligible, and get help figuring out how to sign up.

However, the GOP, in its rabid crusade against the Affordable Care Act, has turned into a destructive force with no aim, simply dismantling anything to do with the ACA regardless of its utility. They slashed two-thirds of funding to the Ohio AFB, essentially killing the program. The AFB now barely has the resources to distribute food, let alone pay 54 extra full time employees.

One can certainly disagree with Obamacare and work to reform it; this is not an invalid position. However, sabotaging programs designed to make health care more accessible to the average person is outright criminal. It seems to have no intent but to claim a victory against Obama. The GOP seems to think that, sure, people who might have been eligible for certain plans now have no way of knowing that, but at least the party stuck it to Obama.

This program, and other programs like it known as Navigator Programs, have seen great success. The Ohio AFB alone enrolled some 10,000 Ohioans in 2016 through the program. The Ohio AFB’s total 2016 funding was $1.7 million, meaning that they achieved both considerable food donations and insurance enrollment with a drop in the national budget, which as of 2016 was $3.54 trillion. Seeing as how we have the cash to increase our military budget by $37 billion in a time of relative peace, it is hard to believe that the budget of the AFB, which may have saved lives, was too much to handle. If so many people benefit at such low cost, why cut it?

The GOP has shown they have little to no consideration of the lives of their constituents. An elderly Ohioan dying of a disease they may have been able to afford to have treated is worth it to the GOP if it means scoring political points against Obamacare. Such ruthlessness is intolerable. Ohio has been turning deeper red for a years, and the GOP rewards its populace by slashing programs designed to assist them. Every Ohioan should remember this betrayal at the voting booth.

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