June 16, 2024

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The Legal System

13 Senate Dems Join GOP in Voting to End Covid Emergency Declaration, Kick Millions Off Medicaid – UncommonThought

13 Senate Dems Join GOP in Voting to End Covid Emergency Declaration, Kick Millions Off Medicaid – UncommonThought

[Photo: Courtesy of Kelly Crawford.]

By Jake Johnson
Source:  CommonDreams

Editor’s Note

While wishful thinking and apparently many politicians, want to pretend that the COVID-19 epidemic has ended, it just ain’t true. Even if the number of severe cases has dropped in the United States, we are still losing thousands of people a month, repeat contagions are on the rise, and long COVID is just becoming recognized and investigated. Further, we are heading into a respiratory trifecta of COVID, Flu,  and RSV that are already overloading hospitals before the holidays. However, the BIG outlier is that most of the population of the planet has not been vaccinated. Look what a few folks flying out of China and Europe did to launch this pandemic – now add billions of people.

But, I don’t think this push to end the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration is about COVID’s status, or even about health. It is about money and where else they might want to apply the funds currently going to these efforts. This vote – including the 13 Democratic senators who joined the Republicans – is a slap in the face for one of the biggest issues revealed by the epidemic, inequality and how policy affects it.

From emergency relief funds to extended unemployment, to expansion of health coverage, and onward, the money and medical access made available through the various emergency actions have helped much of our population survive, and actually relieved stress. According to the Census Bureau, 11.7 million people were lifted out of poverty in 2020 by the COVID stimulus checks alone. That is equal to the entire population of Ohio, or the combined populations of Wyoming, N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The pandemic has shown us the effects of the gaping holes in our social safety net, and the poverty and paucity of evergrowing inequality – aka concentration of wealth.

Ending the emergency funding – even of we might argue that the pandemic is not at its height, sends us back to even worse conditions than before the epidemic hit – even if we just look at the impacts of inflation on current conditions. More people are houseless, and that is growing every day. School nutrition programs are more critical now than ever, and food banks are swamped, children’s health is very vulnerable as pediatric vaccines are limited and hard to find and RSV and flu are cutting a swath through our children’s immune systems. IF politicians are wanting to end EMERGENCY funds, then they should damn well beef up the programs that have done so much good over the past 3 years. The holes have not gone away, and lifting people – many of them children – out of poverty has lifelong benefits. Failing to do so condemns more generations of children to the lifelong effects of poverty – not the least of which are health effects. Not to put a point on it, but it is likely that childhood poverty is the cause of many of the serious health issues that challenge my continued existence on a daily basis. So yes this is personal, and that Democrats (including Schumer) would vote for this demands an explanation to all of us.

Jake Johnson

Thirteen members of the Senate Democratic caucus—including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer—joined Republicans on Tuesday in approving a resolution aimed at terminating the national emergency declaration for Covid-19, a move that would kick millions of people off Medicaid as experts warn of a winter infection and hospitalization surge.

While the White House said Tuesday that President Joe Biden will veto the resolution if it passes the House and reaches his desk, the Senate vote sparked outrage among public health experts and others who stressed the far-reaching implications of the resolution.

“This is appalling,” tweeted Dr. Lucky Tran, a scientist and public health advocate. “This will affect the cost of vaccines, tests, and treatments, restrict access to Medicaid and telehealth, and restart student loan payments.”

“Ending the Covid-19 Emergency Declaration will be disastrous for millions of Americans who are struggling to access healthcare, make rent, and pay off their student loans,” Tran added.

Joining Schumer in voting for the resolution were Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Angus King (I-Maine), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Catherine Marie Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

Every Senate Republican with the exception of Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)—who did not vote—also backed the resolution, which was put forth by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned that enactment of the resolution would “unnecessarily and abruptly curtail the ability of the administration to respond to Covid-19.”

“Preserving our ability to respond is more important than ever as we head into the winter, when respiratory illnesses such as Covid-19 typically spread more easily,” the OMB said. “Strengthened by the ongoing declaration of national emergency, the federal response to Covid-19 continues to save lives, improve health outcomes, and support the American economy. Action by Congress to end these authorities abruptly and prematurely would be a reckless and costly mistake.”

“If Congress passes this resolution,” the agency added, “the president will veto it.”

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a measure that Congress approved in 2020, loosened Medicaid eligibility requirements and restricted states from removing people from the program for the duration of the national emergency, which is currently set to expire in January.

The legislation’s continuous coverage mandate allowed millions of people to obtain and keep health insurance as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy, throwing people out of work and off their employer-sponsored plans.

In a report released in August, the Biden Health and Human Services Department estimated that around 15 million people—including millions of kids—could lose Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage once the public health emergency declaration ends.

Advocates have also warned that millions of people across the U.S. could see their food benefits cut substantially once the Covid-19 emergency declaration ends.

“The U.S. must be ready to ensure that it does not jeopardize the health and food needs of households across the country,” a trio of experts wrote in a STAT op-ed last month. “Urgent action by healthcare systems, community organizations, and all levels of government will be necessary to stabilize health and food security among those at greatest risk.”

“While vaccines and treatments lessen the life-altering threat of Covid-19,” they added, “it is important not to lose sight of the imminent danger to health posed by the expiration of effective expansions of Medicaid and SNAP.”


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