By Congressman Alcee L. Hastings
Seven years ago, President Barack Obama convened a summit with Congressional leaders to discuss his proposal to reform America’s healthcare system. For nearly eight hours, Republicans in attendance rose, one-at-a-time, to reject the proposal in its entirety without offering any ideas for moving forward together. The good-faith effort to end the political gridlock unfortunately fell short.
Since then, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has expanded healthcare access to more than 20 million Americans, including 52 million individuals with pre-existing conditions who previously would have had their coverage denied. The ACA, for the first time, allowed women to receive healthcare coverage for the same price as men, established new coverage for preventative wellness and adolescent health, and expanded coverage for seniors by reducing the costs of prescription drugs and lowering Medicare premiums.
Congressional Republicans, who objected to the legislation from day one but offered no suggestions for how to improve it, have attempted to repeal or weaken the ACA 65 times. Now, with the incoming administration’s pledge to completely unravel the law, they may finally be successful.
Despite years of opposition we still do not know what the Republican alternative will look like, because there isn’t one. We don’t know how they plan to replace the ACA without pulling the rug out from under the mil-lions of people benefiting from it.
What we do know is that repeal will have catastrophic effects on America’s economy. Republicans have already laid the groundwork for their bud-get, which balloons deficit spending to historic levels and adds $9.5 trillion to the national debt.
We also know numbers.
More than 1.3 million Floridians would lose their health care coverage under repeal. More than 1.6 million Floridians who purchased health insurance through the Florida Marketplace could lose their coverage if the exchange is dismantled. Nearly 300,000 children and more than 132,000 young adults receiving coverage through their parents’ healthcare plans would no longer be covered.
Seniors will likely bear the brunt of a Republican repeal of the ACA. More than 1.8 million of our state’s seniors who have received free preventative care services thanks to provisions in the ACA would lose this valuable benefit, while 3.1 million would be at risk of having their coverage rescinded or changed due to pre-existing conditions.
Not only could hundreds of thousands in our state potentially lose coverage altogether, but many may not be able to afford coverage without the ACA. More than 1.1 million Floridians are currently receiving benefits to lower their out-of-pocket costs. As of this year, 89 percent of those signed up for Marketplace coverage in Florida receive advanced premium tax credits that lower their premiums by an average of $323 per month. On an annual basis, that works out to tax credits of $3,870 per year.
And yet, the Republican Majority is declaring all-out war on affordable health care in our country. Ripping health-care away from so many people will create chaos throughout our economy, putting at risk more than 2.5 million jobs across the country and sending shock-waves through families’ bud-gets. Such a reckless, callous plan is not in the best interest of American families.
As a representative in the U.S. Congress, I have worked to improve healthcare for all. And while it is undeniable that the ACA can be improved, tearing it up in its entirety will accomplish nothing. Health insurance is a life-or-death issue, not a partisan talking point, and any attempt to repeal the ACA without simultaneously enacting a replacement that protects the coverage of millions of people must be opposed.
If President-elect Trump and the Republican Majority really care about the health and welfare of the American People, they would reconsider.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings represents Florida’s 20th district, and serves as a Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida delegation.