As the current global health emergency underscores, access to affordable, high quality health care cannot be a privilege reserved for those of us lucky enough to have good insurance provided by our employer, it must be a right secured by policy.
The Affordable Care Act – which is 10 years old today – was a big step forward for our healthcare system, and this pandemic reminds us truly how crucial it is to build upon and protect the gains we have made for American families, not let Donald Trump and the GOP take us backwards.
Before COVID-19 crippled healthcare systems across the globe, we were getting ready to start our own family and faced the common concerns of most people – how are we going to afford it? We welcomed our son, Davis James to the world in January. I was lucky I had a healthy pregnancy and a delivery without any complications. Even still, I was handed a bill for tens of thousands of dollars when we left the hospital. But because of the ACA, we were relieved that we were only responsible for 1% of that bill.
But it shouldn’t stop there. Access to affordable healthcare also means access to affordable testing and treatment for people who are sick, and that should include everyone. It’s critically important to keep our families and communities safe and healthy, and the novel coronavirus pandemic makes it that much more crucial.
From the minute the ACA passed, Republicans have tried to undermine it at every opportunity, and have attempted to repeal it at least 70 times, threatening its funding in the courts and in Congress, and even going so far as to shut down the government altogether. Despite all this, and despite having a decade to come up with their own plan, Republicans have yet to offer a viable alternative as they push for an outright repeal of the ACA yet again.
Republicans have insisted their efforts are for the benefit of the American people, but how can that be when a repeal of ACA would take us back to the days when insurance companies could discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, or for simply being a woman? Repealing the ACA would be ruinous for the 430 rural hospitals across the nation already at risk of closing, even with the Medicaid expansion in place in much of the country. It also would hurt the 135 million Americans who could once again be denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition.
I can’t help but think just how different things would have been for my family if it weren’t for the ACA. Ten years ago, I would have paid exorbitant premiums just for being a woman, the post-partum care we received could have been inaccessible, and I may not have even been assured that my pregnancy would be covered in the first place. Because of the ACA, many women like me can begin the journey of parenthood with access to the vital care they need, without wondering if simply having a baby will bankrupt them; we’ll wait until he goes to college to worry about that.
Beyond pregnancy coverage, the ACA has changed women’s health care for the better in many other ways. It finally put a stop to gender discrimination in health care settings, ensured protections for nursing mothers in the workplace, guaranteed preventative coverage, added mental health coverage for mothers experiencing post-partum depression, and much more.
Put simply, the ACA has fundamentally transformed and improved women’s health care in the U.S. — which is precisely why it’s so frustrating to see continuous efforts of Republicans, specifically Senator Cory Gardner, to undermine it. As Coloradans and Americans across the country have finally gained access to the vital care they need, Congressional Republicans and their allies have worked endlessly to repeal the ACA and the many protections it offers people like you and me.
As we address the threat presented by the coronavirus, one thing we shouldn’t have to focus on is defending the progress we’ve made to expand health care access, especially for women. Instead, let’s expand and improve coverage to make affordable healthcare a reality for every Coloradan.
Senator Brittany Pettersen is a first-time mother and first-term Senator, representing SD-22 which includes parts of Lakewood, Littleton, and Edgewater.