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. To get there, 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, and Republicans have left out of all their recent proposals.
Like many Americans, health care is a deeply personal issue for me. In fact, health care was the reason I decided to get into this race. In 2009, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer at a time when she was uninsured. She had struggled with her health care 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 health care plan that she could afford for many years. Eventually she got insurance, but 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 was 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.
Yet, instead of rolling up their sleeves and solving problems in the ACA, many elected representatives, including our representative Mike Bishop, voted to repeal the ACA with no alternative plan to ensure that Americans would have access to affordable care. The bill that Rep. Bishop proudly voted for in May 2017 would have dramatically raised premiums and thrown 23 million Americans off of their health coverage, including over 30,000 folks here in our district. And when Rep. Bishop couldn’t succeed through legislation, he turned to sabotage. In December 2017, Rep. Bishop helped write the tax bill that included the repeal of a key insurance provision in the ACA. This change will drive up the cost of health care premiums for all of us, and leave millions of Americans without access to affordable health insurance.
We need to approach healthcare with the seriousness and focus it deserves. It is important for our elected leaders to put their egos aside and 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. The health and safety of our families are at stake in this debate, and our representatives should treat the issue with the seriousness that it deserves.