The latest Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would be devastating for rural Ohio.
Last week, I released a county-by-county report detailing just how harmful repealing the Affordable Care Act could be in rural Ohio. From cuts to schools and nursing homes to hospital closures and job losses, it’s clear there are serious consequences.
Repeal would hit rural hospitals especially hard, and by extension entire communities. Twenty-two percent of all rural hospitals would be at risk of closing, forcing more Ohioans to travel long distances to get the treatment they need or go without care altogether. Even hospitals that are able to remain open would be forced to make impossible choices, laying off doctors, nurses, and other workers, and cutting off important services for patients.
Hospitals are one of the top five employers in the vast majority of rural counties and they anchor the local economies around them. Hospital cuts and closures would have ripple effects far beyond the emergency room doors, and would devastate these communities.
But the bad news doesn’t stop there.
Medicaid provides critical support to Ohio schools, and our local schools stand to lose up to $12 million a year. Those cuts would be a huge blow to rural school districts that are already stretched thin.
Many of our rural counties also tend to have older populations. This bill slaps a double tax on Ohioans over 50 by allowing insurance companies to charge them five times what they do today, while at the same time reducing the tax credits they have now.
According to the AARP, under the Senate bill, a 60-year-old in Ohio with a yearly income of $20,000 could pay up to $4,440 more a year in premiums, and up to $4,530 more a year in deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments in 2020. A 60-year-old in Ohio with a yearly income of $45,000 could pay up to $14,220 more each year in premiums in 2020.
The bill also threatens nursing home coverage. More than 60 percent of Ohioans in nursing homes rely on Medicaid. These are our parents and grandparents. They’re people who worked hard to build good lives for their families. They shouldn’t have to lose it all to medical expenses in the latter part of their lives.
The opioid crisis has torn apart families all across Ohio, but hit rural areas particularly hard. Eliminating Medicaid expansion would disrupt treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans, many of whom are in rural counties and fighting for their lives.
We should be working together to tackle these challenges and lower health care costs for all families. But I agree with Governor Kasich: the Senate Republican bill doesn’t do any of this. Instead, it would devastate communities across the heartland that are too often ignored by Washington.
Democrat Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate.