U.S. House of Representatives
March 24 was momentous in the House of Representatives. After more than seven years of railing against the Affordable Care Act, and after months of talk to repeal and replace, House Republicans prepared to finally bring their health care bill to the floor for a vote. As proposed, this bill would have caused 24 million Americans to lose coverage over 10 years while giving upwards of $600 billion in tax breaks to the rich and large corporations. Young adults would have been hit with a penalty provision for lapses in coverage, placing a heavy new burden on individuals most likely to face a brief lapse in coverage when changing jobs or moving. Middle aged Americans and seniors would have faced premiums five times higher than what younger Americans pay for health coverage. Simply put, this bill would have forced Americans to pay much more for far less coverage.
Due to overwhelming opposition from constituencies on both sides of the aisle, the bill was eventually pulled from a vote on the House floor. That alone is a victory for the American people, who let their voices be heard from my district and across the country. However, we are now left with the question of “What’s next?” What lies ahead for the Affordable Care Act and health care reform in general?
The defeat of TrumpCare, and the resounding manner in which it was defeated, could provide a unique opportunity to galvanize our own ranks and move forward to further improve our system in a bipartisan manner. Democrats have always been ready to work across the aisle to improve and update the Affordable Care Act; we are willing to embark on a bipartisan approach to addressing the health care needs of our nation.
I strongly believe that every state should expand Medicaid and provide affordable coverage to our most vulnerable citizens: seniors, the disabled and low-income individuals. I encourage all citizens to continue to share their ACA success stories and influence the debate by calling their members of Congress wherever you live. Your calls do matter. The same voices that weighed in against an assault on hard-working Americans’ health care will be the same ones that play a substantial role in molding a system that best suits their needs moving forward.
It is unfortunate that for seven long years, a fanatical insistence on repeal wasted so much time, money and manpower, which could have all been utilized to establish the improvements that our health care system needs. However, the lesson learned is that when sweeping social policy does pass and improves lives, it becomes even harder to dismantle than it was to create. Our current health care system has shortcomings, and there are issues that still must be addressed. However, party loyalty should not overcome good policy. No American should be forced to miss the opportunity to have quality and affordable health insurance simply because of political posturing. Together we can continue to build upon the strong foundation of the ACA and further increase coverage, improve benefits and lower health care costs for all Americans.
U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson is the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.