In its scant 4.5 months, the Trump Administration has taken numerous actions to endanger the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans. The much-maligned decision by the president to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord is rightfully characterized as an assault on the environment. But it is also just another in a series of actions by this administration to make America ― and, indeed, the world ― sicker.
Climate change impacts health in many ways, from extreme weather events that endanger people’s safety, living conditions, and water supplies; to a warmer climate that increases the likelihood of epidemics; to pollution from greenhouse gases that causes and exacerbates asthma. A lack of global action on climate change will imperil the health of our children and our planet for future generations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “considers climate change to be one of the top public health challenges of our time” (credit to Politico for finding this site still active.)
The president’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord leaves the U.S. nearly alone among nations in failing to act cooperatively on this critical issue. This shortsighted and grossly irresponsible act under the so-called “America First” banner has prompted rebuke from our global allies, as well as from concerned citizens and leaders across the country. With this one action, Trump has managed to endanger the health of millions across the globe for generations to come. The World Health Organization estimates that climate change will cause 250,000 deaths between 2030 and 2050. That bears repeating. A quarter of a million people may lose their lives absent dramatic action to combat climate change, of the kind our president just kicked to the curb.
This is a continuation in a pattern of actions that belies the president’s assertion on health care that he is “going to take care of everybody...much better than they’re taken care of now.” The Trump Administration has shown through its policy agenda that when it comes to improving on the nation’s health, its actions do not match its rhetoric.
The GOP legislation to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would cut 23 million Americans off their health coverage, as estimated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. There is no explanation that justifies this as anything but a heartless act to fund tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the health of our fellow Americans.
This same bill slashes billions of dollars from the Medicaid program above and beyond repealing the expansion in the ACA. This would irreparably gut a popular, effective, and efficient program which provides health care to the most vulnerable in our society ― children and parents, the disabled, and the elderly, among others. The practical impact of this policy would be to kick millions of children and pregnant women off their health coverage, leaving them with no options and endangering their wellbeing.
The Trump Administration is also reportedly moving forward on its promise to reconsider the ACA requirement that insurers cover birth control at no cost. A leaked copy of the rule indicates the administration is going far beyond the Obama Administration’s exemption for religious employers that still protected their employees’ access to contraceptive coverage. The new rule would let any employer opt out of offering contraceptive coverage to their employees, potentially leaving millions of American women without access to affordable contraception ― a key factor in women’s health care.
The bottom line is, when it comes to improving or even maintaining the health of Americans, the administration and Republican Party offer a lot of rhetoric, but their agenda tells a very different story. Following the president and congressional GOP’s lead will not make America great; it will make us sicker.