Why Environmentalists Should Engage in the Health Care Fight

Jul 14, 2017

By Lizzy Girard, Government Affairs Intern

The League of Conservation Voters is committed to defending protections for our land, water, and health to ensure that families and communities are able to live clean and healthy lives. Therefore, we stand firmly with our allies against President Trump and congressional Republican leadership’s continuous efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and defund Planned Parenthood.

Under the ACA, families and communities are finally provided with many of the services they need. All Americans have access to preventive services and are no longer denied for coverage based on preexisting conditions. The ACA is even beneficial from a national security perspective as more people have help addressing emerging threats like the Zika virus and outbreaks of foodborne diseases. Among countless other benefits, communities bearing the largest burden of pollution-associated diseases, including low-income and communities of color, have increased access to affordable insurance coverage.

These low-income communities and communities of color have long been disproportionally affected by the health impacts of pollution, environmental disasters, and climate change, and therefore, are most in need of the preventative health care and accessible insurance that the ACA and Planned Parenthood provide. However, the new health care bill passed by the House and the proposal discussed in the Senate would strip these vital safeguards from the people that depend on them the most. If the ACA is repealed, America’s most vulnerable communities will be even more susceptible to public health and environmental crises while the richest of Americans are awarded a massive tax cut. The administration is turning their backs on the working-class Americans that Trump purported to stand for.

Photo Credit: Molly Adams

Despite the dramatic impacts that will be brought on by this bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is attempting to pass it without meaningfully engaging the public, Senate Democrats, and even members of his own party. Not a single hearing was held and the advice of major hospitals, physician groups, and health economists has been shut out. When the bill was finally released before the July 4th congressional recess and scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that 22 million people would lose health care coverage, the backlash was swift. As Senators departed D.C., the bill’s future was in jeopardy, and the massive grassroots pressure that they faced back home pushed more Senators to express their apprehension about the bill.

But the fight is far from over—and as the focus shifts back to D.C., it seems likely that McConnell and Republican leadership will try to buy off votes by throwing small concessions, like important but ultimately paltry funding to combat the opioid crisis, into the next draft of the bill.  As of right now, McConnell has delayed August recess to allow for more time to find that unicorn deal that satisfies moderate and extremist senators in the Republican party. As an organization that believes everyone deserves a clean and healthy life and environment, we will continue to fight with our allies and millions across America for the Affordable Care Act and our right to affordable, comprehensive health care.

Wondering how you can help? Indivisible has put together a toolkit with state-specific information and info on how to call and email your senators right now—your voice will make a difference!