I believe all Americans should have access to healthcare they can afford, regardless of pre-existing conditions. No one should ever go broke because they happen to get sick, and no family should have to decide whether they can afford to save the life of a loved one. I believe we need true bipartisan reform of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We should also consider options that would allow people the choice to buy into plans, such as Medicare, that have been proven to control costs for consumers. Healthcare reform must be accompanied by a serious effort to reform standards on the prescription drug industry in order to bring down prescription drug costs, something both Democrats and Republicans left out of the original ACA legislation.
Like many Americans, healthcare is a deeply personal issue for me. In fact, healthcare was the reason I decided to first run for office. In 2009, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer at a time when she was uninsured. She had struggled with her healthcare since 2002 when she lost her job and benefits. She had breast cancer as a young woman — what we now call a “pre-existing condition” — so she couldn’t find a healthcare plan that she could afford for many years. Eventually she got insurance, but unbeknownst to my family, she let it lapse just months before her cancer returned. A loophole saved her from going bankrupt from the high cost of her medical bills, but our family’s experience is evidence of a broken system.
Our nation has made important strides over the past seven years. The ACA ensured that insurance companies could not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, eliminated lifetime coverage limits, allowed young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, and made some progress in bringing down healthcare and drug costs for seniors. But there is much more to do: premiums have risen, particularly for small business owners, and too many people in our district are covered but struggle to afford the high premiums and deductibles associated with their insurance plans.
We need to approach healthcare with the seriousness and focus it deserves. I believe it is important to work in a bipartisan fashion to tackle the challenges that remain under the ACA. But the way ahead must safeguard vital components of the ACA: protection for essential health benefits, no annual or lifetime coverage caps, no denial of coverage based on health status or pre-existing conditions, and no discrimination based on gender. I believe we must bring down the high price of prescription drugs, which is why I have cosponsored a number of bills to increase transparency around drug pricing, and to allow for price negotiations, which will bring down drug costs for all consumers. The health and safety of our families are at stake in this debate, and we must treat this issue with the seriousness that it deserves.