Affordable Care Act at 13: forward not back
Thirteen years ago, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. And about five years ago, my oncologist told me my stage 4 cancer was in remission.
As a small business owner, my health insurance is through the Affordable Care Act. So these two dates are inexorably linked in my mind: The insurance which paid for the treatments that saved my life, and the date they told me it worked.
The past several years have not been an easy road. As soon as the bill was passed in 2010, the unrelenting attacks against it began. And the day after my first chemotherapy in 2017, Republicans in the U.S. House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
As a cancer patient in active treatment, I was the very definition of a person with a pre-existing condition. Without that treatment or the ability to pay for that treatment, I would have died. And without the ACA, the marketplace only offered junk insurance for small business owners, which excluded expensive treatments or refused to cover people who needed care at all.
But thankfully, both the Affordable Care Act and myself survived the sideswipes and many potholes that came our way. Maybe a little dinged up (maybe a lot dinged up), but still here.
An entire generation of health care activists is here because the Affordable Care Act provided the care we needed to survive. We will never forget, because we can’t afford to. We know the fragile line that separates life and death, and how we could easily have been on the other side of the line.
It brings me hope to see that under the Biden administration, we are out of the ditch of funding cuts and other attacks by the Trump administration, and can finally drive on to expand health care to millions of other Americans priced out.
Under the American Rescue Plan and then the Inflation Reduction Act, health insurance premiums through the ACA are more affordable than ever. Those savings expire at the end of 2025, setting up yet another roadblock for our basic right to get the care we need. President Biden’s proposed budget for next year would make those tax credits permanent.
Too many Americans have been locked out of affordable health insurance, because their states refused to expand Medicaid. The radical right wing legislators controlling the 11 hold out states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming — have left millions of their own constituents abandoned on the curb without health care. Biden’s budget proposes filling the Medicaid gap at last.
After years of talk, there is finally movement to lower the outrageous prescription drug prices that Americans pay. The Inflation Reduction Act allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the first time, saving seniors money and saving taxpayers money, too. President Biden’s budget proposed to build on this, saving taxpayers AND Americans on Medicare even more money, as well as negotiating savings for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
We should compare Biden’s budget and vision for America with the House GOP version; they have none. Just as in 2017, right-wing legislators complain that they hate everything but will never put together a route to something better.
We must go forward, not back. Too many of us are left behind when health care cuts are tossed around without a road map.
No cuts to Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. These programs aren’t just ideas — every program has millions of lives riding on it. We need the next decade of the Affordable Care Act to expand coverage, not take it away, until we arrive at a country where every American has the health care we deserve.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.