Mayor John Hamilton joined a 155-city coalition that is urging Congress not to enact the American Health Care Act.
The Cities Thrive Coalition is comprised of mayors across the country who are against the new health care proposal, which they say will eliminate health insurance for 24 million people. In addition, the coalition is against the bill because of the effects it may have on mental health care coverage.
According to a press release from the city, the new health care act could leave one in five Americans suffering from mental health or substance misuse at risk of losing insurance.
“With all of those cuts that will be coming through the AHCA, it will put more burdens on our cities,” said Beverly Calender-Anderson, director of community and family resources department. “It’s very important that our mayors stand up and say that our people, our residents, our citizens need to be protected.”
Hamilton participated in the National Mayor’s Mental Health Day of Action on May 24. The movement stresses the importance of mental health care access.
“The misleadingly named American Health Care Act is an outright attack on access to mental health care for 24 million Americans,” Hamilton said in the press release. “If enacted, it will adversely affect every community in this country as we will be forced to scramble to find ways to care for our residents in need of services. Or worse — those residents will not receive needed services.”
Hamilton also signed a Cities Thrive bipartisan letter to Senate Leaders asking them to oppose the American Health Care Act. The letter has more than 100 signatories, according to the press release.
The letter argues that the new health care act would be harmful to those with mental health and substance abuse issues because it would eliminate Medicaid expansion, which covers 1.2 million Americans facing these issues.
If those with mental health issues cannot afford treatment, they will either not receive care or they will use emergency services. Someone has to pay for that, Calender-Anderson said.
“If there is no insurance coverage, then the rest of us bear the burden of that cost,” she said. “Or they go uncovered and risk more serious injuries or death.”
The letter sent to Senate members also argues eliminating the Essential Health Benefits requirement in Medicaid allows states to get rid of coverage for those conditions.
“Although Monroe County and Bloomington have a number of services to address the physical and mental health issues of some of our most vulnerable residents, the current services are inadequate to cover all those who need assistance,” Penny Caudill, Monroe County Health Department administrator, said in the press release. “Passage of the AHCA as it stands would not only jeopardize those residents but also place a great strain on our entire community.”
Calender-Anderson said it is perceived that Bloomington has endless resources for mental health and substance abuse, but most of the centers have long waitlists for treatment. If they were to lose grant money or federal funding, those on the waitlist won’t ever be treated.
The fact that the mayor stood up with others to show support for those affected is incredibly important, Calender-Anderson said.
“This was a way to join forces with other mayors around the country and lift our voices,” she said. “It helps make the people who are going to be voting on this act aware of the impact it will have on local governments and residents. It’s putting our most vulnerable residents at risk.”