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Van Hollen, Ruppersberger join citizens to discuss healthcare

Dundalk Eagle
November 17, 2017
By Charlene Mayo cmayo@chespub.com

U.S. Rep C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) visited Ateaze Senior Center last week to advocate for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and speak out against Republican attempts to repeal the law commonly known as “Obamacare.”

Earlier this year, Senate Republicans released the “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” A healthcare bill that would have repealed portions of the ACA. It did not pass.

“This is the fifth of our events across the state to highlight the benefits of Medicaid for Marylanders, “president of the advocacy group Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, Vincent DeMarco said of Ateaze last week, “and the people that benefit from the Affordable Care Act talk about the importance of Medicaid in some cases saving their lives an certainly keeping them healthier.”

If the “Better Care Reconciliation Act” is implemented, critics like DeMarco say, it will leave thousands of Marylanders that are currently insured without insurance.

Dr. Gregory Branch, director of the Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services, said he “emphatically” believes in the ACA for American citizens.

Branch, citing data from the U.S. Census Bureau, noted that 91 percent of Americans were covered with healthcare in 2016, adding that he wants to continue to cover these people but cannot do so with the proposed cutbacks.

A constituent, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the ACA has changed his life. After working decades for a company that folded, he lost everything and, when sickness came, his life got worse. He noted that, if he didn’t have insurance, he “would be dead right now.”

“The Medicaid program saves peoples’ lives,” DeMarco said.

Sen. Van Hollen said that, since Medicaid expansion through ACA, 200,000 Marylanders have been able to be insured.

Cheryl Gottlieb, a Medicaid beneficiary who suffers from cerebral palsy, explained how she is making efforts with government officials to keep Medicaid the way it is for people like her who need extensive health treatment.
One of the primary benefits that Medicaid has been able to extend to American citizens is substance abuse treatment, according to Sen. Van Hollen.

“When it comes to the opioid epidemic, which we know is striking Maryland as it is the rest of the country, the resources for drug treatment in our community and other places around the state are coming in large part through the Medicaid program.” Sen. Van Hollen said.

A representative from nonprofit Health Care Access Maryland, a group that helps people enroll in healthcare plans, discussed how beneficial, in her view, the ACA has been to the people she enrolls.

“There are people that don’t even apply for health insurance because they think they don’t qualify, and I’ve seen so many people’s lives change because I was able to sign them up for insurance,” she claimed.

“My focus is on seniors, especially those in nursing homes, “ said Robin Drummond, an intern at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“I feel like those [seniors] in larger nursing homes fall between the cracks and nobody cares about them,” she said, adding, “ I have also worked on the dementia unit, and I see people just wander around, and I’m not happy about that.”

Sen. Van Hollen and Congressman Ruppersberger concluded by noting that they will continue to listen to individual experiences with the ACA and take those experiences with them back to Washington.