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300,000 Upper Manhattanites Would Suffer if Health Care Reform is Repealed, Rangel Says

By Jeff Mays | January 19, 2011 6:04pm | Updated on January 19, 2011 6:16pm
U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel spoke at an October rally to protest proposed cuts at Harlem Hospital.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel spoke at an October rally to protest proposed cuts at Harlem Hospital.
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DNAInfo/Jeff Mays

By Jeff Mays

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

HARLEM — A repeal of the health care reform bill would have a disastrous impact on Upper Manhattan, putting almost 300,000 of the area's residents at risk of losing care, U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel said Wednesday.

The House voted early Wednesday evening to repeal health care reform. However, Democrats have criticized the measure as largely symbolic because Democrats have control of the Senate, making it a virtual impossibility that the repeal would even make it to the president's desk.

Instead of wasting time seeking to repeal the health care reform bill, Republicans should hold hearings and work to improve the legislation, Rangel said in an interview with DNAinfo.

"What they are doing is only theatrics. The Republican and Tea Party know it may pass in the House but it will not pass in the Senate. But even if it did the president would veto it."

Citing figures from a report by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rangel said anywhere from 111,000 to 295,000 people with pre-existing conditions in his district, including up to 32,000 children, could be denied coverage by insurance companies. Almost 40,000 small businesses and 181,000 families would be affected by the loss of health care tax credits.

About 5,100 seniors would see prescription drug costs increase and 3,100 young adults would lose the opportunity to remain on their parents' health care plan until the age of 26.

Rangel said his constituents with and without insurance in Upper Manhattan are positively affected by the bill as it currently stands.

"You are talking about people that have no insurance at all who get coverage from the emergency room. The truth of the matter is someone pays for this care and the people who pay are those who have insurance," said Rangel.

"For those who are not insured they should not have to wait in line at the emergency room for help with their illness. Wealthy and affluent people get check-ups. It is only poor people who have to wait until they are sick to go to the doctor."

Harlem has been struggling lately with issues relating to health care coverage. Doctors at Harlem Hospital threatened to go on strike as the Health and Hospitals Corporation proposed doctor layoffs and moving some services to help close a budget deficit.

North General Hospital filed for bankruptcy and closed in July and was replaced by a long-term nursing care facility and a primary care health clinic run by the Institute of Family Health.

Dr. Neil Calman, CEO of the Institute for Family Health, said the new health care law has given hope to a lot of the low-income patients his facility cares for.

"The health reform law is the best thing we've had in decades for getting coverage for people with no insurance," Calman said in an interview. "People we see who are uninsured are hopeful they can get and afford insurance. The law won't be repealed because a lot of people are already benefiting from it."