Kiarra Rocker ‘23, Copy Editor
Since the founding of the United States, the national debt has been a cause for great concern among the American people and its government, but in more recent years, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this concern has drastically increased. Just in January of this year, the possibility of a financial crisis hit as the U.S. has finally reached its debt ceiling. Different ways to balance the nation’s budget and various solutions to America’s issue over debt are proposed from both sides of the political spectrum, and the never-ending debate on federal government spending continues.
Thus, as a result, Republicans of course have decided the best course of action is to deplete federal health program spending and make healthcare more expensive than it already is. Republicans have made namely the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, and Medicare—healthcare services upon which millions of lives depend on—the scapegoat for the national debt crisis. Programs that aid tens of millions of Americans. Programs if the funding and budget is slashed will not make the country face a financial crisis, but instead a public health one.
President Biden addressed the attempted attack on these vital healthcare programs in a Virgina Beach rally, in which he stressed the importance of the healthcare programs at stake, primarily the ACA. For background, the ACA is a landmark healthcare law that has stood tall against Republicans’ seemingly constant reign over lower income oppression, transforming healthcare in the U.S. by increasing access for millions of uninsured Americans.
At the rally, Biden declared the feats of his presidency so far as it pertains to public health. He established the American Rescue Plan, a strategy designed to contain the spread and damage of COVID-19 through the vaccination of hundreds of millions of Americans. The expansion of the ACA was also a large objective in which healthcare was made cheaper and far more accessible, allowing for millions of Americans to sign up (with three million new people signed up since). Biden also signed the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, bringing down healthcare costs, notably capping the long-overdue insulin cost to $35 a month for senior citizens relying on Medicare. The Biden administration is now fighting for this to apply to all Americans.
Despite the vast amount of benefits these initiatives have provided to beyond millions of Americans, the programs are still at risk. Republicans have placed the blame on their desire to bring an end to the ACA because of the country’s large debt number, but the federal government has continuously run a budget deficit since 2000, creating an increase to the national debt. This is no different. This goes far beyond partisan blame. This is playing the politics game with people’s lives, as Biden expressed.
At the rally, he stressed that Americans need peace of mind. Peace of mind in knowing quality healthcare can be provided regardless of background and economic status. Peace of mind in knowing one will not wake up one day with something that should be guaranteed to everyone—affordable, quality healthcare—stripped away.
Republicans have failed to announce any plan to balance the budget as of March 9, but it is evident who will be hurt by their proposition. One woman, Abbe Granelle, detailed her life with two sons living with cystic fibrosis (CF) and their struggle with financial burden before and after the ACA was passed in 2010 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She wrote, “Although the ACA is not perfect, it ensures that CF patients cannot be denied coverage, charged more, have their benefits limited, or subjected to annual and lifetime limits simply because they were born with cystic fibrosis…the most devastating part of our family’s experience was the compounded worry of being able to afford and access the care we knew existed and that our sons needed to survive.”
One of the most prominent members of the Republican party leading the charge against healthcare programs is House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy. Speaker McCarthy calls Biden childish for being firm in his stances, yet he fails to address the many concerns about dialing back spending that will alter the lives of millions of Americans.
It is easy for the Republican Party to see these healthcare programs as disposable because everyone should “pull themselves up by the bootstraps.” It is easy to act with such depraved indifference for those suffering while thousands of dollars line their pockets from taxpayers. They will scale the walls of the Capitol building yet treat the act of accessible healthcare as subversive and extremist.
There is no question if members of the Republican Party ever have to make the choice between getting basic care or spending the rest of their life in debt due to medical expenses, unlike millions of other Americans. While they rally behind large corporations and the elite rich, the Americans they say they stand for will struggle and die regardless.
It is evident that Biden is advocating for the healthcare programs at risk, but at what point is this not enough? Regardless of whether funding for the ACA or Medicaid is truly scaled back, this has not only once again shown the true callous nature of the GOP, but also sparks a much larger conversation about the already fragile healthcare system in the U.S..