Four months into my first term representing the Central Coast in Congress, I watched in disbelief as House Republicans passed their repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Hundreds of my colleagues voted for legislation that would leave more than 22 million Americans without insurance by making insurance coverage prohibitively expensive, adding an “Age Tax,” and repealing protections for those with preexisting illnesses. Fortunately for Americans over 50, Medicaid recipients, and those with preexisting conditions, these plans have since stalled in the Senate.
When it passed the House, I thought about my constituent Baylee, a high school athlete from Lompoc who was diagnosed with CVID — common variable immune deficiency. Baylee’s susceptibility to infections due to her autoimmune disease can thankfully be managed with medication, allowing her to pursue her passions on Cabrillo High School’s soccer and golf teams. Without insurance coverage, however, these critical prescriptions would cost her family $27,000 every month.
We cannot turn the clock back to a health-care system that forces parents to make the unfathomable choice between keeping their child healthy and financial ruin.
D.C.’s Republicans have so far faltered in their misguided attempt to work only within their own party to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but now is not the time for complacency.
Lacking the votes for a replacement of our current health-care system, the Senate now plans to just repeal it — without offering anything to replace it.
This is an unconscionable and politically calculating approach to legislation that has life-and-death consequences for millions of Americans, including the 3.7 million people in California who risk losing their insurance. The Affordable Care Act helped reduce California’s uninsured rate to 7.1 percent last year, its lowest in history. On the Central Coast, more than 27,000 residents have gained access to health care under our state’s ACA exchanges on Covered California.
It is quite clear that the Republican health-care repeal plan prioritizes cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans over the health of the 32 million people who have gained access to health-care insurance under the ACA.
The Affordable Care Act is not perfect; in fact, it needs significant reforms to expand access to affordable health care and to bring down premium costs and the prices of prescription drugs, which are still far too high.
While doing everything to vigorously oppose this health-care repeal, I believe that Democrats should offer productive solutions to fix what’s broken.
In light of Republicans’ failure to repeal the ACA, the President has talked and tweeted about withholding crucial cost-sharing reduction subsidies (CSRs), in order to sabotage our insurance markets. These subsidies reduce out-of-pocket health-care costs for hardworking American families. If CSRs ended, insurance would become unaffordable for many; more insurers would hike premiums or leave the exchanges altogether. That is why I have cosponsored legislation to permanently fund these payments and reduce instability in the insurance market.
When the Affordable Care Act was passed, the provision to create a public insurance option to compete against private industry was unfortunately blocked from the final bill. I have also cosponsored current legislation to establish a public insurance option, which is a critical piece to driving down rampant costs set by insurance companies and providing affordable access to health care.
Adding a public option will not only create much-needed competition in our insurance markets, but it will also give a valuable lifeline to rural communities across America that have only one insurance provider on the ACA exchange.
Keeping young and healthy people in the insurance market is one of the most effective ways to bring down health insurance costs for all Americans. The Trump administration has signaled that it does not plan to enforce the “individual mandate” provision of our current health-care law, yet another callous attempt to weaken our current health-care system. An alternative option to keep these people in the marketplace is to automatically enroll these younger and healthier individuals in low-cost, catastrophic insurance coverage plans.
These are a few good places to start, and there’s much more that we can do to stabilize our markets, increase competition, and reduce insurance costs for all Americans.
We may have ideological differences, but we can all agree that our insurance market needs improvement. It is time for the House Majority to abandon their repeal and join with Democrats in a bipartisan way to address the problems with the Affordable Care Act and improve access and affordability in our health-care system for all Americans.
We are ready to work.