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Gutting Health Care Also Hurts US Environmental Protections Too

The Senate GOP failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, which also fundamentally protects against threats to our clean air and clean water, as well as our health.
Image via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay.

This is an opinion piece by A. Tianna Scozzaro, Director of the Sierra Club's Gender Equity and Environment Program

This past year, the realities of our healthcare system came to my family's doorstep. As my dad's health failed we struggled with whether we would be able to afford the costly nursing home care he needed. At the same time, I worry about whether my healthcare plan will provide the reproductive care I, and millions of women across the country, require in the future. As Senators discuss our family's future behind closed doors, their solutions will make us worse, not better. They will cost more, not less. And they will cause even greater stress during times when we most need stability.


Unfortunately, the choices my family has been forced to confront also plague millions of Americans. These are not the choices we should have to make -- how to give our family members the dignity of care that they deserve, and how to protect the rights to our own bodies.

For months, Trump and Congressional Republicans attempted to gut our healthcare system while attacking and removing key environmental safeguards. Unfortunately, neither the environmental rollbacks nor the health care crisis exists in a vacuum; Trump's reckless actions have dealt a blow to American families.

Hospital and doctor's visits, asthma inhalers, and other health needs add up, and without affordable health care, are extremely difficult to cover.

As Donald Trump eliminates environmental safeguard after safeguard and attempts to gut our healthcare system, low-income mothers, more likely to live in the backyards of coal plants, oil refineries, and fracking sites are forced to make impossible health-related decisions.

This pollution isn't cheap -- hospital and doctor's visits, asthma inhalers, and other health needs add up, and without affordable health care, are extremely difficult to cover. When the children living under clouds of pollution get sick, mothers without a living wage, without affordable health care, and without paid leave are forced to choose between missing work and much needed income to take care of their children, or, making enough money to pay for the costs of their children's health.


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Trump and Congress' targeting of our environmental safeguards guarantees further threats to our clean air, clean water, and our health.

Affordable health care is key to ensuring families can live in safe and healthy communities.

Because Trump left the Paris climate agreement, rolled back protections from pollutants, and plans to increase production of dirty fossil fuels while giving big polluters a free pass, our families are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the illnesses caused and exacerbated by pollution. With more pollution and less access to healthcare, Trump and Republicans are setting up our communities for suffering, when we should be thriving.

Affordable health care is key to ensuring families can live in safe and healthy communities. But by attempting to repeal the ACA, Trump tried to take away access to healthcare, one of they only lines of defense against pollution. As people -- especially children -- contract diseases and become sick, they'll be heading in droves to the doctor. Sadly, Trump and Congressional Republicans would have made it more difficult and more costly for them to go and receive the treatment they need by repealing the ACA. The same communities disproportionately affected by Trump's polluter-backed agenda are losing the health care coverage they need to cope. Before the Affordable Care Act, companies could charge women more for insurance than men, and most of these policies did not include maternity care. As Trump guts the ACA, this trend is likely to return. This care will become even more crucial as Trump does the bidding of big polluters. The effects of unchecked mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants that harm fetal development and pregnant women will be made much worse as insurers charge women more for insurance coverage. Trump's destructive environmental and health care agenda is simultaneously working to make maternal care more crucial and less accessible.

No family should have to worry about being able to afford healthcare for their loved ones, just like no family should have to worry about their children breathing dirty air or drinking dirty water. Unfortunately, Trump and Congressional Republicans have made it clear they care more about the profits of big polluters than the health and safety of American families.