The potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, isn’t the only thing threatening Americans’ health. President Trump’s revised Muslim Ban 2.0, which seeks to ban nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, would reduce the number of foreign physicians who provide medical care to Americans. Although the ban has been blocked by two federal courts, the Justice Department has announced that it will appeal the preliminary injunction in the Maryland court decision and will continue to defend the ban in court.
While President Trump framed Muslim Ban 2.0 as an urgent national security measure, it ironically could harm another form of security for some of America’s most vulnerable communities. If implemented, it could jeopardize the health of many Americans, including those living in the Rust Belt and Appalachia who voted for Trump, by creating a shortage of highly skilled doctors immigrating to the United States. According to a recent study by graduate economic students at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there are more than 7,000 physicians from the six banned countries of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen working throughout the U.S. Indeed 94 percent of Americans live in a community with at least one physician from a banned country.
These physicians provide critical medical care in hard-hit areas where many American-born physicians are reluctant to live and work. In many of these places, hospitals rely on immigrant physicians to fill critical vacancies. These physicians deliver babies, treat diabetes, and perform surgeries.
The areas that benefit most from physicians from the banned nations are located in the Rust Belt and Appalachia, especially in Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky. Four of the top five cities with the highest share of physicians from the banned countries are also located in the Rust Belt — Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, and Dayton.
The Trump administration’s decision to defend Muslim Ban 2.0 in court comes at a time when Republican lawmakers in Congress are pursuing a repeal of the ACA. According to the Congressional Budget Office, up to 24 million Americans are at risk of losing their health insurance if Congress repeals the ACA with the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Moreover, residents of rural, low-income communities will be hardest hit by the ACA repeal. In nearly 1,500 counties nationwide, older residents with annual incomes of $30,000 stand to lose more than $6,000 a year in federal insurance subsidies under the AHCA. Of those counties, 90 percent voted for Donald Trump.
The combined effects of Muslim Ban 2.0 and the ACA repeal would have a devastating impact on the health of Americans in the hardest hit regions of the country. We cannot afford to implement policies that, according to the government’s own assessments, do nothing to improve our safety while simultaneously putting Americans’ health in danger. That’s why the ACLU will continue to fight both Muslim Ban 2.0 and the ACA repeal. The health of millions depends on it.