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Congressman Mark Pocan

Representing the 2nd District of Wisconsin

Senate tax bill is life or death for Obamacare and millions who need it: Rep. Pocan

Nov 30, 2017
In The News

In October, while doing a routine exercise class, I felt something strange in my chest. Chalking it up to eating something that wasn’t right or running a little too fast on the treadmill, I shrugged it off, thinking that I was too young and too healthy for it to be anything else. While I was confident I was not having a heart attack at the gym that morning, a tightness in my chest was still enough reason to worry.

Thankfully, I didn’t stay silent about what happened. When talking with my family over the next several days, my brother-in-law, a former nurse, encouraged me to get it checked out, just to be sure.

Walking into the doctor’s office in Madison the first week of November, I didn’t expect the results of my medical tests to point in the direction they did. Following multiple rounds of testing and a brief stay in the hospital, it was clear that the pain in my chest wasn’t from my breakfast or my pace on the treadmill — it was from three arteries that had become blocked. On Nov. 8, I underwent triple bypass surgery to avoid a heart attack.

I’m telling my story because the U.S. Senate is about to consider a disastrous tax giveaway to the rich that would also limit ordinary Americans’ access to health care. While the tax scam passed by Republicans in the House is unquestionably devastating to American middle-class families, the Senate version may be even worse. It includes a provision that aims to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, threatening the future of a law that provides highly popular and literally life-saving protections to all of us. Tens of millions of Americans who can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions and enjoy free preventive services like cholesterol screenings are now being put at risk in order to pass a tax giveaway for America’s wealthiest families and richest corporations.

I’m proud to be one of millions of Americans enrolled in health care through the Affordable Care Act, a program that is not failing, as President Trump has claimed. While Republicans in Congress have repeatedly tried to repeal the law and the White House has deliberately undermined the enrollment process, Americans are still enrolling in the health insurance marketplaces. In fact, they are doing so at a record rate with a 47 percent increase in sign-ups this year over a similar period last year.

Though the Affordable Care Act enjoys the support of a majority of Americans, Republicans are ramming through a tax plan through the Senate without any public hearings that would unravel the individual mandate, an essential component of the Affordable Care Act. This would leave 13 million more Americans uninsured and raise insurance premiums by 10% — all so they can pay for tax breaks for the richest among us.

Their audacity is breathtaking: Earlier this year, Republicans attempted and failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act in order to give the wealthy a massive tax cut. Now they’re trying to pass a massive tax cut for the wealthy by sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. In the face of massive public outrage, why do they insist on jeopardizing the health of ordinary people in order to reward big corporations? It’s simple: their mega-rich donors demand it. Frustrated by a year of total Republican control over government without any major legislative accomplishments, campaign donors expect to see a return on their investment. As Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) admitted, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”

I’m extremely fortunate to be insured and protected by the Affordable Care Act. As a member of Congress, I will continue to receive health care whatever Senate Republicans decide. But I’m terrified for what could happen to someone else’s spouse in Wisconsin; or a father in North Carolina; or a daughter in Colorado. Tax breaks for the rich may lead to fewer cardiovascular tests. Corporate tax cuts could result in preventable deaths.

The Senate tax bill truly is a matter of life or death for the millions of Americans who could lose access to health coverage under this plan. With enough public pressure, Senate Republicans might feel compelled to stand up to the endless greed of their donors and stop their unrelenting attack on what we all hold dear — our health.

Rep. Mark Pocan is a Democrat representing Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District.

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