A cancer survivor defended Medicaid expansion coverage to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price during a CNN town hall-style meeting on March 15 (video below).
Brian Kline, a colon cancer survivor, wanted to know why Price and other Republicans wanted to take away Medicaid expansion coverage, which expanded under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The proposed House GOP bill, the American Health Care Act, would phase out the Medicaid expansion by 2020, notes Talking Points Memo.
Kline told Price how cancer treatment was beyond his budget, but that Medicaid expansion covered his care:
Medicaid expansion saved my life and saved me from medical bankruptcy. Now, I earn $11.66 an hour at my retail job. And obviously, I cannot afford to pay for my cancer care out of pocket.
My life really depends on having access to my doctors and medical care. Getting a cancer diagnosis is bad enough. But Medicaid expansion gives me the economic security in knowing that funding is always going to be there for my cancer care.
So my question for you, Secretary Price, is pretty straightforward: Why do you want to take away my Medicaid expansion?
Price said he did not want to take away Kline's care, but said later that Medicaid expansion may be replaced with a tax credit:
The fact of the matter is, we don't. We don't want to take care away from anybody. What we want to make certain, though, is that every single American has access to the kind of coverage and care that they want for themselves.
If you look at the Medicaid program right now, we have one-third of the physicians in this nation, Brian, who are not seeing Medicaid patients. And so if we want to be honest with ourselves as a society, it's important that we step back and say, "Why is that? Why are those doctors not seeing Medicaid patients?"
Let me just suggest that it's because the Medicaid program itself has real problems in it. So what we want to do is, one, reform the Medicaid system.
Make certain that individuals who are currently on Medicaid or are on the expansion are either able to retain that or move to a system that might be much more responsive to them through a series of advancable refundable credits, a way to get coverage that they choose for themselves and their family, not the government forces on them.
CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked Kline if Price had answered his question, and Kline replied:
Unfortunately, no, I don’t believe he did answer my question, Wolf, because, according to my knowledge, the American Health Care Act under the Republican leadership bill is going to sunset Medicaid I believe in 2020. Now, of course, you have the conservative Republicans who want to sunset it even sooner, so this is not going to help me.
During another part of the town hall, Katie Needle, a resident of New York, defended health care provider Planned Parenthood to Price:
Planned Parenthood provides an array of vital health services for women, and the majority of their patients are on Medicaid. I am a Medicaid enrollee and I am a Planned Parenthood patient, and I would be absolutely devastated if Planned Parenthood were defunded.
We’ve already seen in Texas that cutting access to Planned Parenthood means women have less access to health care. More women’s health centers didn’t just magically appear because Planned Parenthood was defunded. That just doesn’t happen.
Needle also recalled Price's answer to Kline about how "one of the biggest problems under Obamacare was that only one third of doctors were accepting Medicaid."
Needle told Price that the House GOP plan "chooses to cut a provider [Planned Parenthood] that sees over a million Medicaid patients every year."
She then asked, "So, if that’s your big problem with Obamacare, then how does that make any sense?"
Needle added: "My actual question is: How do you expect the millions of low-income women nationwide who depend on Planned Parenthood for these vital human services -- basic needs -- to access these things if Planned Parenthood is defunded?"
Price told Needle that the House GOP bill would increase funding to women's health services through community health centers.
Rewire noted in February that some community health centers refuse to provide women with certain types of birth control based on the centers' religious beliefs.
Price said there were over 13,000 community centers, and insisted that areas without the centers will see more centers "spring up" to provide services, if the resources are available.