By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
As we enter a new year with a new Congress, many Americans have begun reflecting on how their families will be affected by legislation that could possibly impact their access to health coverage. Normally people approach a new year with joy, happiness and hope for the opportunities that are ahead. However, in the first few days of 2017 the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is once again being challenged by a Republican-led Congress whose goal is to repeal and dismantle the health coverage for thousands of people in our district and millions in our state.
Over the past six years families were able to take comfort in the security that they and their loved ones gained — treatment for a pre-existing condition, or a regular check-up without paying out of pocket. Yet for many Americans, it is now a time of anxiety.
The Affordable Care Act has improved the health care and financial security of every American, no matter where he or she gets health insurance. For those already with insurance, the law made health coverage more affordable, more reliable, and higher quality – guaranteeing access to free preventive check-ups and health services, and holding insurance companies accountable to their patients and their policies. For millions of Americans who struggled to afford health insurance, including Americans with pre-existing conditions, young adults, and low-income families, the ACA finally put affordable health care within reach. The ACA also saved seniors thousands of dollars in drug costs and put Medicare on a more sustainable path, helping protect the Medicare promise into the future.
Repealing the ACA without a new plan to replace those who are currently insured will bring about unwarranted chaos and confusion. Thanks to the enactment of the ACA in 2010 – the uninsured rate in Texas has fallen by 28 percent, which resulted in more than 1.7 million Texans gaining health coverage. More than 4.7 million Texans (seniors, children, and people with disabilities) are covered by Medicaid, Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The people affected most will be the middle class and low-wage working families. Additionally over 13 million Texans were able to receive health insurance through employer-sponsored health plans.
While there are of course improvements that could be made to the health care law to strengthen the protections and further lower costs, the ACA is paving the way for increased access to affordable insurance for working people. We cannot lose sight of the millions of Americans who depend on the ACA to keep their families happy and healthy all year round. I will continue to work to ensure that the Affordable Care Act stays in place, despite the uproar and support Republicans have put forth to dismantle it. I will push for Texas to expand Medicaid so that more Texans can receive the same benefits that millions of Americans in Medicaid expansion states currently receive. During the 115th Congress, I will make it my goal to improve the law so that we can fulfill the generations-long struggle to make health care a right, not a privilege, for all Americans.