Last week, the Trump administration asked the courts to strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, characterized this action as a “neutron bomb.” Perhaps that’s hyperbole, but it won’t feel that way to the millions of Americans who would find themselves either without health insurance or without the critical protections that the ACA provides should the administration’s wish be granted. For so many of us, health insurance can be the difference between life and death, or bankruptcy and financial stability.
The Affordable Care Act, while imperfect, brought coverage to over 20 million Americans who were previously uninsured. The ACA ensures that you can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, whether it’s asthma, a previous pregnancy, or cancer. It requires insurance companies to cover essential health benefits -- services like maternity care and hospitalization. It also provides coverage to millions of the most vulnerable in our society thanks to Medicaid expansion -- including up to 400,000 Virginians.
All of these benefits will disappear if the Trump administration succeeds in eliminating the ACA. Repealing the ACA would cause up to 21 million Americans to lose their health insurance. It would cut nearly $874 million in Medicaid spending for opioid addiction treatment, and would jeopardize coverage for the 133 million Americans who live with a pre-existing condition.
In 2017, Republicans in Congress passed a tax bill that repealed the individual mandate of the ACA. That decision -- to prioritize irresponsibly outsized tax cuts over health care for millions of Americans -- is the rationale the administration is using to bring the ACA to court today.
But Republicans no longer control both chambers of Congress. In the historic 2018 election, Democrats placed health care at the top of our agenda, and we are delivering on our promise to make care more accessible and affordable. On day one, we authorized the general counsel of the House of Representatives to enter the legal battle over the ACA on the side of the American people.
Just last week, House Democrats introduced a bill I cosponsored, the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions & Making Health Care More Affordable Act. This bill will lower health insurance premiums, crack down on short term junk health insurance plans, strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and reverse the Trump administration’s health care sabotage. The new majority is taking action to improve our health care system, not tear it apart.
That’s the contrast between an administration that is working overtime to gut the ACA while providing no alternative for the tens of millions who would lose health insurance and a Democratic House majority that is proposing smart, pragmatic health care policies that will lower costs and expand coverage. I came to Congress to find solutions that tackle our biggest challenges, and the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions & Making Health Care More Affordable Act will do exactly that.
Jennifer Wexton (D) represents Virginia's 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.