Since its enactment in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has made a huge difference in the lives of Marylanders, including here in the Fifth District. The law took a three-pronged approach to address the problems that plagued our health care system by working to bring down the cost of health coverage; increase access to quality health care; and end discriminatory practices that prevented many Americans from being able to get covered. In all three areas, the Affordable Care Act has proven its worth, helping over 20 million Americans who were previously uninsured obtain coverage, lowering out-of-pocket costs for consumers, and banning insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions or from charging women higher premiums for the same coverage as men. Moreover, the law also broadened access by expanding Medicaid eligibility and allowing parents to cover their adult children up to age twenty-six through their own plans.
Repeal with no replacement would mean an economic and health disaster for families across Maryland and our country. Were the Affordable Care Act to be repealed, 30 million Americans would lose access to health insurance, including 347,000 Marylanders. Tens of millions more would see their out-of-pocket costs rise, including nearly three million Marylanders who now have private health insurance that covers preventive services without any co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles. Approximately 975,000 Marylanders with pre-existing conditions – such as asthma, epilepsy, or diabetes – could be denied insurance coverage once more, and women could be forced to pay higher rates than men. Forty-one thousand Marylanders between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six would lose coverage through their parents’ plans. The consequences of repeal would be felt in families and communities from Leonardtown to La Plata to College Park and everywhere in between.
Recently, I heard from Fifth District residents whose families have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act and are deeply worried about the law being repealed. One young woman, from California in St. Mary’s County, wrote to me out of concern for her family. “My father is retiring this year,” she said in her letter, “and while I will be safe on my own employer insurance plan, I fear for my younger sister who has not yet graduated and is dependent on my father and this ACA [under-26 rule] clause for her care. I am afraid a lack of coverage will discourage her from necessary and preventive medical care.”
Another constituent, from Beltsville in Prince George’s County, shared in a letter that she and her husband are “struggling small business owners,” and “the ACA gave us an opportunity to afford health care.” She went on to explain that, in addition to requiring a knee replacement herself, her husband suffers from diabetes, and “we cannot afford to pay for these healthcare services on our own” out of pocket. “Needless to say,” the woman wrote me, “we, like so many others, are now completely terrified at what is to come.”
These were just two of the many letters, phone calls, and social media messages I’ve received from across the Fifth District showing how the Affordable Care Act is working and expressing concern about Republican plans to repeal it.
These families, like so many others in Maryland’s Fifth District, have benefited from the patient protections, greater accessibility, and cost savings included in the Affordable Care Act to get the health coverage they need. Concerns about the cost of health care need to be addressed, but scrapping the life-saving and life-changing health care reforms of the Affordable Care Act wholesale is not the answer. Instead, the new Republican Congress and next administration ought to sit down with Democrats and with stakeholders from across our nation’s health care system – including patients and families – to find ways to improve the law and prevent the spike in health care costs that would result from repeal.
Republicans will soon control Congress and the White House, and they will have to own the consequences for any changes to health care in our country under their watch. Whether they pursue immediate repeal or so-called ‘repeal-and-delay,’ the negative impact of such a move on our economy and our people will be significant and felt in Americans’ everyday lives. We know that Republicans in Congress have no plan to replace the Affordable Care Act if they repeal it. If they did, we would have seen it by now.
For the sake of these Marylanders who wrote me out of concern for the future of the Affordable Care Act – and for the many others who share their fears of repeal – I will continue to fight against efforts in Congress to turn the clock back. All Americans deserve to live healthy lives, without ever having to choose between affording health insurance and putting dinner on the table or paying the mortgage. That’s what the Affordable Care Act has moved us closer to achieving – and what we must continue to strive for in the years ahead.