Greg Kelley Testifies on the Affordable Care Act Before Cook County and City of Chicago

Our Executive VP, Greg Kelley, spoke to a joint committee of the Chicago City Council and the Cook County Board on the harm of repealing the Affordable Care Act today. Below are his remarks.


DSC_0343Good morning. To Commissioner Gainer, Alderman O’Connor, Alderman Pawar and other distinguished guests, I am honored to speak to you about the devastating impact that repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will have on our healthcare delivery services and residents of Cook County.

Our union, SEIU Healthcare Illinois, represents tens of thousands of workers in healthcare field. We witness on a daily basis the benefits that the ACA has brought to our communities and the impact of improving healthcare options for residents.

Prior to the ACA, tens of thousands of residents had no option for healthcare other than a nearby emergency room, a costly option for the patient and taxpayers alike. The ACA has allowed emergency rooms to be utilized more for real emergencies rather than caring for patients who had to use the ER as their primary care option.

Prior to the ACA, people with pre-existing diseases had no hope for care. Many adult children living with their parents went uninsured. Now they can be on their parent’s plan through age 26.

What a blessing.

Here are some more facts from very reliable sources that should give us pause:

Repeal of the ACA will cause 1.1 million Illinois residents to lose insurance coverage. Where will they go? Many of them will go right back to those emergency rooms for primary care.  Our members are at the forefront of access to care in this county. Story after story of a patient coming to get care after decades of no care due to no insurance. They are seeing people at the beginning of a illness instead of a deathbed. Instead of issuing bills and payment notices our members are enrolling patients in county care and ObamaCare. 

Greg_1Repeal of the ACA will cost Illinois healthcare providers $2.7 billion in income in 2019 and hit safety-net providers especially hard. Large corporate hospitals have not been opening clinics to service underserved communities like they should. Safety net hospitals like St Bernard, Roseland and Loretto and Mt. Sinai, where many of our Members work and which already operate on shoe string budgets, ARE servicing those communities.

To make matters worse, loss of Medicaid expansion revenue coupled with the elimination of Medicaid supplemental payments that subsidize hospitals that care for a disproportionate share of Medicaid and uninsured patients will cause some safety-net hospitals to reduce services or close altogether. This would dramatically reduce access to care in vulnerable communities and may cause needless suffering and death.

The Republican plan to repeal the ACA will cost Illinois $33.4 billion in federal funding and $2 billion in state and local tax revenue between 2019 and 2023. 

Let me take a moment for a side note since I mentioned revenue. I would hope that today when Gov. Rauner gives his budget address, that he will not only finally put forth a sensible budget that funds vital services, but that he will also speak loudly against those Republicans in Congress who want to destroy the ACA – a program that brings in billions of dollars to our struggling state economy.

There is so much more I could say regarding the senseless attacks on the ACA by Republicans, but I’ll end with this: It is estimated that repeal of the ACA will cause 24,000 additional deaths nationwide annually. It’s great if we want to work to improve on what we have in the ACA, but it makes no sense to unravel a healthcare program that is saving lives.

The question I ask to Republicans in Congress and Governor Rauner is, where are your priorities?

Thank you to Commissioner Gainer, Alderman Pawar, and others for the opportunity to testify before you all today. We look forward to working with you all to protect the healthcare we have fought so hard for.


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