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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Continuing the march for healthcare

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Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there’s another season to recognize: we’re in the middle of Open Season for health insurance. This opportunity is personal for me. More than 10 years ago, I marched arm in arm to the U.S. Capitol with my Democratic colleagues, including the late, great civil rights champion Congressman John Lewis. We walked together to cast our votes for a critical civil rights bill: the Affordable Care Act.

As we headed to the Capitol to cast our votes for what became known as “Obamacare,” angry protestors shouted at us and hurled insults. President Obama and supporters of affordable health care like me faced huge political backlash from those who wanted to maintain the status quo instead of dismantling discrimination in the healthcare system and giving all Americans quality, affordable health insurance. 

But we kept marching – and the Affordable Care Act prevailed.

It’s easy to forget just what it took to pass this monumental legislation, and how it completely transformed our healthcare system. Before the Affordable Care Act, those with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage, and if you did not have insurance through your employer, the price of health insurance was simply out of reach. Today, thanks to this law, you can’t be denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition. Plus, Americans have access to essential health benefits, including preventive and rehabilitative care, prescription drugs, wellness visits, contraceptives, mental health and substance use treatment, and more.

Building on the progress of the Affordable Care Act, I haven’t stopped fighting to make health coverage even more accessible. I proudly voted for the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which further lowered the cost of healthcare. The American Rescue Plan Act ensured more people than ever qualify for help paying for health coverage, even those who weren’t eligible in the past. This year, four out of five Americans should be able to find plans for $10 or less per month.

The Affordable Care Act has changed lives – but just like over a decade ago, naysayers still threaten its existence. Last year, a record 35 million people enrolled in coverage related to the Affordable Care Act. Approval rates for the Affordable Care Act are high – up to 62% of Americans show favorable views of the law. Yet this hasn’t stopped Donald Trump and his allies in Congress from repeated calls to repeal or replace Obamacare. Recently, he vowed to renew efforts to replace Obamacare if he wins a second term.

However easy it might be to discount the rants of a five-times indicted former president, we must take these threats seriously – lives are quite literally on the line. These calls to rip healthcare away from millions of Americans are dangerous and shouldn’t be ignored.   

If Republican attempts to discredit and dismantle the Affordable Care Act gain steam, it would be an immense setback to our fight for true health equality in the United States. For the Black community, the stakes are particularly high. Research shows that the Affordable Care Act narrowed racial and ethnic disparities in insurance coverage. When more Black families have access to health insurance, it means we are better equipped to address illnesses and diseases before they become serious.

I have long spoken out about the importance of addressing diseases like pancreatic cancer early on, which claims the lives of Black Americans more than any other group due to lack of early detection. This is not the only area where Black Americans are left behind. Despite being more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, only one in three Black adults with mental illness receive treatment.

No one plans to get sick or hurt, but most people need medical care at some point. Health insurance covers those essential costs and can be crucial to maintaining your health. If you experience unexpected, high medical costs, Marketplace insurance keeps you protected. You can also get free preventative care, like vaccines, screenings, and some check-ups, even before you meet your deductible. 

There are many pieces to the puzzle of ensuring Black Americans have equal access to healthcare. The passage of the Affordable Care Act and our ongoing efforts to strengthen and expand this legislation is a civil rights issue – we must continue defending it.

If you currently don’t have health coverage, don’t wait! Open Enrollment to get coverage in 2024 is open NOW until December 15. All you need to do is take the first step at www.healthcare.gov. My office is also available to help Indianapolis residents navigate this process. Don’t hesitate to contact us at (317) 283-6567.

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