Achieving Universal Healthcare in America

 
 

Every American deserves quality and affordable healthcare...

The Affordable Care Act marks a major win for working families in this country. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and young people can remain on their parents' health coverage until age 26. While this landmark legislation has helped millions of people, there remain millions more in poverty who still do not have health care coverage. Every American should have a choice of buying health insurance through Medicare or through private insurers, which would provide competition for insurance companies and more options for consumers. This idea is backed by bipartisan support in Congress -- we need to move forward and ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable healthcare. While current legislation is not perfect, I will work hard to improve on this large step forward in saving American lives.

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Since 2010, The Department of Health & Human Services has estimated that at least 20 million Americans have gained access to health insurance as a part of the Affordable Care Act. Over 6 million young Americans between the ages of 19 and 25 have obtained access to coverage, and Americans with preexisting conditions have also been granted life-saving medical care. Unfortunately, there have been many issues with the ACA: specifically, decreased competition in the marketplace and rising premiums. Dealing with these consequences is the next great challenge in the American healthcare debate.

In one third of U.S. counties, competition has decreased to the point where Americans who do not obtain coverage through their employer will only be able to buy health insurance from one company. This coming year, 42 of the 88 counties in Ohio will have only one insurer, while an additional 20 counties will see their choices limited to two insurers. This is a 32% increase of the number of counties with only one or two insurers in 2017. This is contributing to an already problematic rise in insurance costs, forcing Americans who obtain insurance through their employer to pay more each year. In Ohio, costs are expected to rise by 21% in the coming year. All the while, President Trump continues to undermine efforts to reform the healthcare system. Currently, the government is subsidizing costs for low and middle income Americans who do not obtain insurance through their employer, so these rising costs do not have much of an effect. However, at the current rate this trend will pose a serious problem. To be clear, the Affordable Care Act is not responsible for the soaring price of healthcare: the rate of ballooning costs has actually slowed since the ACA was passed. Regardless, more legislation needs to be constructed to further blunt, and hopefully reverse, this increase.

As a result of the Trump Administration's efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, it will be even harder for the hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who rely on the ACA, and anyone shopping for insurance, to find a quality healthcare plan. This year, the enrollment period has been cut short by six weeks with no advertising budget and several planned website shutdowns. Fighting Obamacare by sabotaging the system and hurting hundreds of thousands of Ohioans is simply not an answer to the healthcare challenges we face. As your congresswoman, I will work hard to fix Obamacare by fighting to continue the subsidies that help low and middle income Americans, fighting to include a public option, and by fighting to keep access to healthcare open to the people of Ohio rather than shutting down the markets in an effort to sabotage access to plans that save lives.

Pharmaceutical Prices

On top of consistent increases in the cost of insurance, Americans face an onslaught of price increases from pharmaceutical companies. This rising cost of medicine is a driving factor for the ballooning insurance pricetag. When pharmaceutical companies charge insurers more for drugs, insurers charge more to consumers. Prescriptions for life saving tools like EpiPens have become extraordinarily expensive -- this is unacceptable. By increasing access to pharmaceuticals through more market competition and by opening up access to Medicare, we can increase pressure on pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices of lifesaving medication. We must also fight back against any tax plan that eliminates tax deductions for medical expenses -- this would devastate low and middle income Americans who are already struggling to deal with serious healthcare challenges. This fight won’t be easy, but we cannot back down from the challenge of ensuring that every American has access to a functioning health care system and the world’s best care.

Medicare Extension and Buy-In

My ultimate goal is universal healthcare for all Americans, but today we are grappling with how to expand access to healthcare and reform the Affordable Care Act. Medicare provides an excellent framework for extending better options to Americans, as it has successfully lowered both healthcare and administrative costs in comparison to private employers. And, most importantly, people like Medicare! More than half of Americans over 65 say that they receive excellent coverage from Medicare compared with only a third of Americans who think they get excellent care from private insurers. And, with a plan that everyone is already paying into, it makes sense to increase access to excellent and affordable care. The solution to our problems is right in front of us -- it is familiar, it works, and people like it. We need to stop believing Republicans who demonize healthcare while simultaneously taking advantage of its benefits.

Expansion of Medicare could provide millions of Ohioans with the excellent and popular care that people 65 and older are receiving. Moreover, adding a new choice for Ohioans would help expand the limited competition in the counties where only one or two insurers are present. A combination of a public option and a Medicare extension would help improve Obamacare: the public option would compete in the Obamacare marketplaces for those under the age of 55, while the Medicare expansion would be available to 55-64 year-olds. This controlled rollout would alleviate some of the complications of expanding Medicare, while incorporating the advantages of its low cost model. I understand that healthcare reform is complicated, but I will go to Washington with the knowledge that the system today needs fixing and with a determination to support the millions of Ohioans who rely on healthcare plans every year.