STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – When local health care professionals sat with Rep. Daniel Donovan at a roundtable a week and a half ago, they expressed concern with the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with one that would cut funding to their facilities and stop covering many of their patients.
This week, they applauded the Republican congressman for planning to vote “no” on his party’s plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
Efrat Halevi, a certified family nurse practitioner at EG Healthcare, a neighborhood health clinic in New Springville, spoke at the roundtable of her concerns that while preventive care improved under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it would be harmed with the replacement.
Halevi has many patients who are uninsured and low-income and took issue with the proposed tax credits in the Republican plan being age-based, not income-based.
“ACA has its own problems, this doesn’t seem to help,” she said then.
Speaking on Wednesday, Halevi said, “I am excited that Rep. Donovan listened to our concerns and decided to put the people’s needs before the party line. The ACA has helped millions of people and to repeal it haphazardly would hurt too many of our most vulnerable humans.”
Donovan plans to vote “no” in part because of cuts to Medicaid, a program that insures about one-third of New Yorkers.
Donna Proske, executive director of Staten Island University Hospital, said, “From emergency and trauma services to pediatric through geriatric, hospitals like Staten Island University Hospital rely on Medicaid funding to meet the needs of their communities. The proposal to cut off a significant share of funding for Medicaid in the AHCA will hurt Staten Islanders who need us the most, and the reason we call on Congress to vote “no” and protect our hospitals and our communities.”
Like Donovan, Dr. Daniel J. Messina, president and CEO of Richmond University Medical Center, criticized a rush to replace the ACA with something that’s not good enough.
Messina attended the roundtable in Donovan’s office and said, “We need a true improvement on the present system, which isn’t currently” what is proposed.
He said Thursday, “From the moment this legislation was introduced, Congressman Donovan sought the input of a broad cross-section of the Staten Island community, from health care providers to consumers. We appreciate his willingness to listen to all sides and ultimately to put the best interests of his constituents first by voting ‘no’ on this bill.”
Donovan had drawn the ire of groups protesting before he revealed how he would vote. Progressive advocacy group Make the Road New York has been present at protests outside the congressman’s district offices.
Deputy Director Theo Oshiro said Wednesday, “Make the Road New York applauds Congressman Donovan’s statement saying that he will vote against the AHCA on the House floor. As the Congressman has heard from our members on Staten Island, this bill would devastate families by taking away health insurance coverage from 82,000 non-elderly people in his district alone — and 24 million non-elderly people nationwide. Rep. Donovan’s position is a testament to the tenacious organizing of local residents who have taken to the streets repeatedly to demand that he vote ‘no’.”
Another progressive advocacy group, Move Forward Staten Island, started a Twitter campaign on Valentine’s Day, urging the congressman to vote against the bill.
Using the hashtag #HaveAHeartDan, they bombarded his office with feedback and delivered 50 personal testimonials.
While Julienne Verdi, chair and founder of Move Forward Staten Island, applauded Donovan’s planned vote, she was hesitant to celebrate.
The group participated in another protest outside his Staten Island office Wednesday night after he announced his intended vote. The event was organized by Planned Parenthood of New York City to remind Donovan to protect access to sexual and reproductive health care.
Some health care providers and advocates gathered Thursday morning to support Donovan’s decision.
Included among them were: Staten Island Mental Health Society’s CEO Fern Zagor; Adrienne Abbate, executive director of the Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness; Diane Arneth, executive director of Community Health Action of Staten Island; Rev. Terry Troia, executive director of Project Hospitality, and Favio Ramirez-Caminatti, executive director of El Centro del Inmigrante.
Ramirez-Caminatti wants to see the ACA strengthened and reformed, he said, because it “is a safety net for working poor, the disabled and our children.”
Abbate feared a loss of insurance would grow the addiction problem here.
“The Staten Island community is in the middle of an opioid epidemic,” she said. Cutting off insurance would mean “cutting off a lifeline to treatment.”
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