Not in Our Best Interest: How our So-Called Leaders Failed our Vietnamese American Community

What do we call people who create a plan that may lead to our bankruptcy, threaten our health and the health of our loved ones, and that will eventually kill some of us? Surely, not our leaders because they don’t represent our best interest. On May 4, 2017, there were 217 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to do all that to Vietnamese Americans and all Americans in order to give a tax cut to the very rich by passing the American Health Care Act (AHCA).  The Vietnamese have a well known saying that “health is gold!” because we know that good health is invaluable. The 217 representatives who voted for the AHCA also believe that our health is gold--in the sense that they cashed in our health to make actual gold for billionaires.

PIVOT completed an analysis on a prior version of the AHCA . Based on our analysis of the prior version, as well as on the scant information Republican lawmakers gave to members of Congress and the American public before rushing to pass the new version, here is what our so-called leaders voted to do:  

The AHCA will give a tax break of $600 billions of dollars over ten years to the wealthy. The top 0.1% of earners will get back about $200,000 EVERY year! The AHCA will allow insurance companies to charge older people five  times more for health insurance than younger people. People who have pre-existing conditions will also pay much more for their health insurance. These cost increases could affect not only those with more serious illnesses like cancer but also patients who suffer from obesity or arthritis or even pregnant women. To get the bill passed, Republican lawmakers did include in the AHCA $8 billion over five years to help cover insurance costs for people with pre-existing conditions, but these funds will cover only a small fraction of actual costs.  Think about this—the AHCA gives billionaires $60 billion a year but millions of sick people only $8 billion over 5 years!

The AHCA repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which helped Vietnamese Americans greatly. In 2016, while Vietnamese Americans comprised  only 10% of the Asian-American population, out of 4 Asian Americans who signed up for the ACA were Vietnamese Americans. Up to 200,000 Vietnamese Americans obtained health insurance under the ACA.  These are hard-working Vietnamese Americans who make more than what is allowed under Medicaid but do not work for companies that have health insurance. They are small business owners and their employees. Additionally, the ACA increased the limit of income to get Medicaid, so many more poor Vietnamese Americans received health insurance at practically no cost. Those who voted for the AHCA wanted us to either pay significantly more for health insurance or go without it.

What does the AHCA mean for Vietnamese Americans who are lucky and have employer-provided health insurance or can buy their own health insurance? First, they, too, will pay more for the health insurance. Premiums are expected to go up. Hospitals do not turn away the uninsured who are dying, so the costs will be passed on to those with health insurance. Health insurers will not have requirements to cover many important conditions, so Vietnamese Americans will be paying more for less. Second, Vietnamese Americans with medical conditions,  including common ones like high blood pressure or diabetes, will be “locked in” to their jobs for health reasons because if they are fired or leave their job, the costs for health insurance  will be sky high.  

Of course, the harm that would result to Vietnamese Americans under the AHCA applies to all other Americans as well.  The ACHA will, at its outset, cause 14 million more people to become uninsured.  By 2020, 21 million more will be uninsured, and by 2026, 24 million more. Up to 45,000 Americans died each year due to the lack of health insurancebefore the ACA. If the AHCA passes, the number will likely rise to that level again.

Every Vietnamese American knows that health is important. When we or someone we love has a cough, we worry about the potential effect on health and life. We shouldn’t have to worry about whether we can afford to see the doctor and pay for medicine. A typical stay in a hospital for three days may cost $20,000. A stay in the intensive care unit for a week may cost $100,000. We shouldn’t have to choose between bankruptcy and life. Here are the names of some of the people who voted to force us to make that choice in order to make the rich richer. In 2018, let’s make sure they lose their jobs and worry about health insurance like the rest of us by voting them out of office.

List of Representatives and their District

14 Republican "yes" votes from Clinton-won districts:
John Culberson (TX-7)
Carlos Curbelo (FL-26)
Jeff Denham (CA-10)
Darrell Issa (CA-49)
Steve Knight (CA-25)
Martha McSally (AZ-2)
Erik Paulsen (MN-7)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)
Peter Roskam (IL-6)
Ed Royce (CA-39)
Pete Sessions (TX-32)
David Valdadao (CA-21)
Mimi Walters (CA-45)
Kevin Yoder (KS-3)