Republicans in the House of Representatives are working to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010. Rather than upgrade the ACA for the improvement of our country, Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan are leading a dangerous campaign to pass Trumpcare (formally, the American Health Care Act), which will wreck health care for millions. The ACA’s 7th “birthday” is a great time to remind Congress what the law and everyday Americans have accomplished for health justice, and how much farther we can go.
1. Coverage is at an all-time high.
For the first time in our modern history, 90.9 percent of Americans have coverage for health care. The Affordable Care Act is major contributor of this accomplishment. We must continue the work of making healthcare a basic human right, not a privilege. Trumpcare takes our country in the exact opposite direction: millions lose their right to healthcare so a few billionaires get tax breaks.
2. Medicaid is lifting millions of lives.
Under the ACA, 31 states and Washington, D.C. expanded Medicaid to cover 15 million of our fellow Americans. Importantly, that coverage is resulting in care. According to the non-partisan Commonwealth Fund, 93 percent of new enrollees report their Medicaid coverage helped them get appointments to see primary care doctors and specialists. Similarly, Medicaid delivers health and dignity for millions of children, seniors, and disabled Americans. Trumpcare slashes $880 billion from Medicaid with per person caps and block grants, which will kick 14 million people out of the program.
3. Benefits are comprehensive.
The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans sold in federal and state exchanges to cover 10 essential benefits for health care: outpatient clinic visits, emergency care, hospitalizations, help with prescriptions, maternity care, mental health services, child health, rehabilitative services, prevention, and laboratory services. Even though all of us do not need all of these benefits, they are more affordable for patients and families who do need them when everyone pitches in. A pregnant woman should not go broke trying to afford maternity care, and a car accident survivor needs physical therapy to be affordable in order to walk again. We are stronger and healthier when we contribute together. Right now, Republicans in Congress want to remove requirements for comprehensive benefits, allowing insurance companies to sell cheap plans that are like bad coats: they don’t cover much and will leave you cold when winter comes.
4. Women are protected from discrimination.
Prior to passage of the ACA, women often faced higher premiums from insurance companies, putting affordable healthcare out of reach for millions. The Affordable Care Act put a stop to that discriminatory behavior, and contributed to women’s health by requiring insurance companies to cover Pap smears, HPV testing, and mammograms ― without co-pays. Women can get counseling for domestic violence, a major public health threat for millions of women and children. If we do not stop Republicans in Congress, then Trumpcare will decimate Medicaid, remove essential benefits from insurance plans, wipe out funding for Planned Parenthood, and women’s health will suffer.
5. Minority communities are gaining coverage.
Among the glaring disparities in American health is the fact that our brothers and sisters in Black, Latino, and Native American communities have high rates of being uninsured. Thanks to the ACA and states expanding Medicaid, these gaps have started to improve. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to manifest health justice for all, but the Affordable Care Act is taking steps in the right direction. Trumpcare reverses the progress we have made and takes fuel out of our tanks right when we need to journey forward.
6. Children win “bigly” with the ACA.
Thanks to Medicaid, CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program), and the insurance marketplaces built under the Affordable Care Act, we are almost at universal health coverage for every child in America. Medicaid covers 35 million children, a third of whom have special health care needs. Parents, guardians, and caregivers of children with complex medical requirements rate Medicaid higher than private insurance. Medicaid’s excellent performance is delivered an a lean budget. That is why our country’s leading advocates for children have united to tell Congress to keep Medicaid strong and reject the AHCA.
7. Some states are putting patients before politics.
In 2012, when the US Supreme Court ruled that Medicaid expansion under the ACA was optional for states, governors and legislatures faced an important challenge: would they put patients before politics? In places like Kentucky, health justice prevailed, and 413,000 people gained coverage. Regardless of whether we live in red or blue states, the basic human right of healthcare should be the same. Politicians in the House of Representatives and every state legislature must stop treating healthcare as a political football.
On its seventh birthday, we need to appreciate what the Affordable Care Act has accomplished and work on upgrades that continue to optimize health for millions of our fellow Americans. Sadly, House Republicans are rushing forward with a Trumpcare bill that prioritizes wealth-care before healthcare, giving $600 billion in tax cuts to the super-rich while 24 million more everyday Americans go uninsured. The majority of the American people did not vote for Donald Trump, and they did not vote to make health care a privilege. We the people must be champions for the basic human right of healthcare. Regardless of our race, income, gender, age, geographic location, or political beliefs all of us have a right to be healthy.