30th Congressional District of Texas
Since the build-up to its passage, the Affordable Care Act has been intensely controversial. Debate surrounding this bill has filled our television screens, mailboxes, and Facebook feeds. It has brought ordinary citizens to passionate blows. Why has expanding access to healthcare terrified so many people and divided us so deeply? For one, it was passed when the Democrats had a majority in both the Senate and the House. Republicans felt they did not have any say in the bill. So, they mounted a particularly caustic anti-Affordable Care Act campaign, coining the now famous term Obamacare.
Second, some premiums did increase, but many reasons contributed to this rise in premiums. First, the insurance market is one that fluctuates often, so typically you will see premiums increase. However, now people are looking to place blame on “Obamacare.” Second, insurance companies participating in this market raised premiums in response to the passage of the ACA in order to completely freeze out this new element of competition. Yet, if they had behaved according to the normal tendencies of capitalism, they would have the lowered prices to compete. The underlying principal of the ACA is to save live and provide health coverage to those without. This is not a business, so insurance companies should stop treating people as such.
The uninsured rate in Texas has fallen by 28 percent since the ACA was enacted in 2010, resulting in 1.7 million Texans gaining coverage. Almost 2 million people will now have access to health care that previously did not. Additionally, 4.7 million people in Texas are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and 3.7 million seniors are covered by Medicare. Seniors have paid into the system and deserve healthcare that can preserve and save their lives.
Sean Hubbard, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas-Dallas, knows firsthand how the ACA can save lives. Before starting a family, Sean and his wife did not have health insurance because they did not have any pressing health concerns or extra income. However, the ACA proved to be affordable, so Sean, his wife and their young daughter signed up for coverage prior to having their son. It is a blessing that they did, because their son Navin was born a month early with a heart defect that required immediate surgery. Prior to the ACA, health insurance companies discriminated against individuals with pre-existing conditions, including children born with congenital heart disease. In total, their medical bill amounted to $3 million after several life-saving surgeries, but the expenses were covered by their insurance, thanks to the ACA. You can read his entire story and others like it at https://www.hhs.gov/blog.
So to my Republican colleagues in Congress – I implore you to have a solid plan and consult with everyone before you repeal this law and before people like Andrew will not be able to save their loved ones. Until then, I will continue to work to ensure that the Affordable Care Act stays in place until we can find a sound compromise. And I will push for Texas to expand Medicaid as I always have. We must take this seriously. It is truly a matter of life and death.
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.