Cancer Survivor: ‘Why Do You Want To Take Away My Medicaid Expansion?’

A colon cancer survivor confronted Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price on Wednesday, asking, “Why do you want to take away my Medicaid expansion?”

“Medicaid expansion saved my life and saved me from medical bankruptcy,” Brian Kline of Pennsylvania said at a CNN health care town hall. “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?”

“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,” Price said, emphasizing that he was pleased Kline — who is in remission — could get the care he needed.

The audience member was referring to a component of the House GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, currently making its way through Congress. In its current form, the bill would phase out Medicaid expansion by 2020, though some conservative lawmakers want to nix it sooner than that. A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Monday said that 24 million people would lose coverage under the House GOP plan over the next 10 years. “Roughly 9 million fewer people would enroll in Medicaid in 2020; that figure would rise to 14 million in 2026” under the bill’s changes to the program, CBO said.

Asked whether he thought the HHS secretary answered his question, Kline said, “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 sunset Medicaid I believe in 2020. Now of course You have the conservative republicans who want to sunset it eve sooner, so this is not going to help me.”

Price said Medicaid is having “extreme difficulty” providing care for everyone enrolled, adding that one in three doctors in the U.S. don’t accept Medicaid patients.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Taintor is a news editor at Talking Points Memo. Previously, he worked at NBC News and Adweek. He’s a native of Minnesota. Reach him at taintor@talkingpointsmemo.com.

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