As a first-generation college student who worked my way through community college on to Cornell Law, having health insurance was not a top priority when I was starting out. I was buried in student loan debt and worried about simply making ends meet.
It wasn’t until I was injured at the gym — resulting in an emergency room visit and bill of $4,000 — that I realized the cost of forgoing health insurance. I was fine, but it took me more than a year to pay off that bill. That hurt worse than the injury itself.
Too many of us have felt this same pain. Families across the country are struggling to get the health care coverage they need, or are faced with skyrocketing costs. It’s the No. 1 issue I heard about on the campaign trail — and it’s one reason I beat a four-term incumbent (who repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act) to represent Kansas’ 3rd District in Congress.
Yet we are still facing endless attempts to strip health care from people in our country. Last week, the Trump administration attempted not only to end protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but to eliminate all protections and benefits provided by the ACA. These benefits include allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26, ensuring women and men are charged the same rates, and protecting people with pre-existing conditions — common things such as asthma and diabetes.
If the ACA were repealed, millions of people could lose their health care coverage — people like Danny Robeson. Danny is a 7-year-old from Prairie Village who was born prematurely and has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and cortical vision impairment — health conditions that could be considered pre-existing conditions. Without the protections in the ACA, his family fears they could go bankrupt and be unable to get Danny the care he needs.
I want to make sure more people — not fewer — have access to quality, affordable health care. That’s why I signed on to the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions and Making Health Care More Affordable Act, a sweeping new health care bill that would lower health insurance premiums, strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reverse attacks on our health care system that are hurting patients and providers.
According to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, the bill would make coverage more affordable for low-, moderate- and middle-income individual market consumers, reducing premiums for more than 13 million people.
It would achieve this by offering greater tax credits in the ACA marketplace to lower health insurance premiums and allow more middle-class individuals and families to qualify for subsidies. And it would ensure that families who don’t have an offer of affordable coverage from an employer could still qualify for subsidies in the marketplace.
It would reverse the Trump administration’s ruling that expanded short-term, limited-duration health plans — commonly referred to as junk insurance plans — that don’t cover essential medical services such as maternity care, and charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions.
And it includes a bipartisan bill, introduced by Democratic Rep. Andy Kim and Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, that would provide federal money to incentivize states to set up their own health insurance marketplaces.
While we still have more work to do — addressing rising prescription drug prices and surprise medical bills, for instance — these are much-needed steps toward making sure everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.
I believe we can find a lot of common ground on this issue, both within our party and with members on the other side of the aisle. We know that Congress must find ways to reduce the cost of health insurance, including premiums and out-of-pocket costs, as well as to lower the actual costs of health care.
This issue remains as important today as it was in 2018. In my conversations with constituents, health care is still the top issue that comes up. At my recent town hall in Olathe, seven out of 10 questions were related to health care.
That’s why I remain committed to working with anyone — regardless of party — to make sure more people can get care. The time is now to take action on health care.
Sharice Davids represents Kansas’ 3rd District in the House of Representatives.