Senator Bob Casey visited Tioga County Monday, Sept. 30, as part of his initiative to visit every county in the state during the course of the year. One of the main aspects of his work that Casey wanted to talk about was perils facing the healthcare system.

According to Casey, the current administration has threatened the healthcare system as currently structured in three specific ways. First is a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act currently in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The second, as Casey said, has been political sabotage directed at the Affordable Care Act. Third, Casey noted that the proposed budget cuts, although they haven’t taken place yet, could seriously impact the healthcare system.

The proposed cut to Medicaid is $1.5 trillion. Casey said, “In most rural counties, the hospital is the biggest employer. If you cut Medicaid by a $1.5 trillion a year, you are going to close a lot of hospitals in rural Pennsylvania.”

Counter the proposed cuts and the lawsuit in the Fifth Circuit right now, the number of people who received healthcare under the Affordable Care Act and the number of people who could be affected would be immense.

“One million and one-hundred thousand people got healthcare in Pennsylvania because of the Affordable Care Act. Most of that, or the highest percentage of that, came because of Medicaid expansion. In this county, it’s about 69% of people who got health care because of the Affordable Care Act. Almost 70% of the 3,400 people who got health care, got it because of Medicaid expansion. That all goes away. The lawsuit is something we are not talking about enough. It is every bit a threat as the Repeal Act in 2017 was,” Casey said.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the share of Americans without health insurance rose from 7.9% in 2017 to 8.5% in 2018. That was the first increase in uninsured individuals since the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

In addition to his concern for the state of health care in Pennsylvania, Casey also expressed worry for increased gun violence throughout the country.

“I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania and there aren’t many parts of the country that have a greater appreciation for the Second Amendment. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a gun violence problem. We’ve never had the gun violence problems that we do today,” Casey said.

He noted that recent legislation proposals are not focused on infringing upon the Second Amendment so much as they are about trying to take action against the issue of gun violence.

The current political climate has made it difficult to move forward with bi-partisan legislation, he said. Nonetheless, Casey has strived to work with both Democrats and Republicans.

“Whether it’s education policy, health care policy or otherwise, I try to work in a bi-partisan way but it is really challenging because the parties are really divided,” Casey said.