Op-Ed in Queens Tribune: Our Moral Obligation to Protect our Health Care

March 10, 2017

Seven years ago, our country was facing a health care crisis that demanded our attention. Simply put, the cost of care for American families had skyrocketed. Premiums were rising, insurance companies could limit or even cut off care altogether at the drop of a hat and Americans were forced to postpone care or skip their medications because they couldn’t afford it.

But Democrats in Congress acted to address that crisis and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law. We fought to ensure that people could get the affordable, quality coverage they need, that seniors could afford their prescription medications and that insurance companies could no longer deny you coverage for being a woman or because you had a preexisting condition.

At the time, the skeptics said “time would tell” if it would indeed expand coverage, reduce costs and improve quality.

Seven years later, here’s what we know: the ACA works. Roughly 20 million Americans have now gained access to health care that they didn’t have before, including over 1.6 million in New York. And over 9.6 million New Yorkers with employer-provided coverage now enjoy new consumer protections that let them keep control of their care.

Yet time and time again, Republicans have attacked the ACA without offering any vision of their own. President Trump and congressional Republicans gave vague promises that they would repeal and replace the law with a better one, and this week House Republicans finally revealed their plan. While it may seem that all our questions have been answered about Republicans’ plan, at least one remains – better for who?

Their plan would take federal resources away from low income families to prioritize tax breaks for the wealthy and for insurance company executives, allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times what they would charge younger people and end federal funding for Medicaid expansion. In my district alone, almost 100,000 individuals from Queens and the Bronx who are covered by the ACA’s Medicaid expansion now stand to lose coverage if the Republican Congress eliminates it. And the $9.27 billion in funds that would be taken away from New York will devastate the state budget, leading to possible property tax increases or other state budget cuts.

This week, the Committee on Ways and Means, of which I’m a senior member, will begin to consider the Republican bill, despite the first draft being released less than 48 hours before the committee meets. Democrats will not sit idly by and allow them to rob the American people of life-saving protections while padding the bottom line of insurance companies. As we slowly begin to peel away the layers of an ill-conceived proposal, we’re finding out that Republicans never really had any interest in putting the health of Americans first.

Democrats won’t let them fool the American people into thinking this proposal is better for them and their families. We will fight tooth and nail because we have a moral obligation to protect our care. From the start, we’ve understood health care is a right, not privilege. And it’s time my colleagues across the aisle end their obsession with taking away that right.