I have long been a supporter of the idea that all Americans should have the right to affordable health care. New surveys by the Commonwealth Fund and the Kaiser Foundation show I’m not alone. Ninety-two percent of Americans agree with me. Given that my support of the Affordable Care Act contributed mightily to my early retirement from Congress, you might think I’m feeling vindicated. I’m not!
Why? Because partisan attacks are threatening the advances made by this landmark legislation that provided millions of Americans with health insurance and gave us all important protections. Protections like coverage for pre-existing conditions, which the U.S. Justice Department recently announced it would not defend in court.
President Trump said last year the “best thing politically is to let Obamacare explode, and when people get a 200 percent increase, that it’s the Democrats’ fault.” When that didn’t happen, and support for the ACA kept increasing, Trump and the Republican Congress gathered dynamite and lit a match.
The repeal of the ACA’s individual-mandate penalty and its proposed short-term rule plan are expected to increase the average Hoosier individual premium by $853 next year, according to a recent analysis from the Center for American Progress.
If you’re among the 3.2 million Hoosiers who have employer-based health insurance, you might not see the impact as clearly as the nearly 150,000 Indiana residents (including 4,700 veterans) who rely on the ACA for health care. You might not be watching that closely as more than 1.4 million Hoosiers struggle because the comprehensive, affordable health care coverage they receive through Medicaid is affected by Republican actions in Congress.
What if you lose your job, however, and have a pre-existing condition? Before the ACA, pre-existing conditions would have been used as a reason to deny you health care coverage.
Do we want to return to those days? Apparently, the U.S. Justice Department says yes.
I’m not trying to whip up fear. The fact is, the fear already exists, according to the Commonwealth Fund. It discovered that three in 10 people who receive coverage through the ACA are worried about losing it.
This fear shouldn’t exist. Policymakers should be working together to improve the ACA rather than blow it up. There were bumps in the road to enact the legislation, but what’s happening now is like an interstate pile-up. It’s a wreck that was not an accident. It’s being engineered by Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.
Indiana had enjoyed a 7 percent decrease in its rate of uninsured citizens from 2013 to 2016, when the ACA was implemented. That was real progress, especially after years of watching the number of uninsured increase. But now we are back to our old, flawed ways. Our uninsured rate increased from 8.6 percent in 2016 to 10.1 percent in 2017. That’s the wrong direction.
I encourage everyone to ask their congressional representatives whether they are part of a team working to help ordinary Americans or part of the Trump demolition team. Ask them what they will do to protect the right of affordable health care that 82 percent of Republicans, 92 percent of independents, and 99 percent of Democrats say they support.
And then in November, remember what they said.•
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Hill is a Democrat and former congressman from the 9th District in Southern Indiana.