WASHINGTON, D.C. — The first week of spring ushers in a season filled with hope, promise, and new beginnings. As the cherry blossoms begin to bloom in Washington, D.C., this week, we’re offered a brief hiatus from the usual rush of Capitol Hill to stop, smell the flowers, and take a moment for reflection.
This week marks a historic anniversary that signaled the beginning of a new era for many Americans: the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since President Barack Obama signed it into law 13 years ago, the ACA has transformed our ability to care for ourselves and our families by making affordable, quality health care coverage available to all Americans.
Recent years have demonstrated how essential the ACA has become to the American health care system. During President Joe Biden’s first year in office, nearly 5.8 million Americans enrolled in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.
This year, the White House reported that a record-breaking 16.3 million people have selected health plans during the 2023 Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace Open Enrollment period – 22% of whom joined an ACA program for the first time.
Looking back on the COVID-19 pandemic, we realize how critical the ACA has been to providing health care for all, aiding Americans in an unprecedented time of need. Shortly after the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)’s passage in 2021, it helped 6,000 more residents of Ohio’s 11th Congressional District newly enroll in ACA health insurance plans.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed last summer builds on the success of ARPA by continuing to expand access to health care, especially for those in historically underserved communities. More specifically, the White House has projected that the IRA will reduce health insurance premiums for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans by $810 per year and provide 55,000 more Ohioans access to health care.
The IRA also caps our seniors’ insulin co-pays at $35 per month. Eli Lilly, a major insulin manufacturer, followed the IRA’s lead by capping out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 monthly for everyone. Medicare can also negotiate the prices of high-cost drugs through the IRA, saving billions of dollars for some of our most vulnerable community members.
Reflecting on these successes, we know the fight is not over. Far too many barriers to affordable, quality health care still exist in this country, even more so in regions that are home to historically underserved populations. While racial disparities in health coverage narrowed after the passage of the ACA, research shows Black people continue to suffer from higher mortality and illness rates than their white counterparts.
The gap in care is exacerbated in districts like Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, where Black Americans make up over 51% of the population and even one barrier to accessible health care would be too many. When discussing future policies to expand access to health care, we must remember to address deeply rooted social determinants of health, which influence outcomes on a fundamental level.
Such policies include passing legislation such as the SNAP Access for Medically Vulnerable Children Act, which would expand SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to include children suffering from chronic medical conditions. We must also continue to advocate for a national health insurance program such as Medicare for All to increase access to health care, and fight against draconian measures that subvert our constitutional rights to abortion and contraception.
As a nation founded on the principles of promise and freedom, it is our civic duty to ensure that we protect our citizens’ unalienable right to freedom, which includes access to reliable, quality health care choices. And, as one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, we can afford to fulfill this promise and ensure all Americans enjoy their right to quality, affordable health care.
In this time of new beginnings, I am hopeful that Congress will work together in the coming seasons to champion policies that promote equitable expansions to our health care systems so that every American receives the quality health care they deserve.
U.S. Rep. Shontel M. Brown represents Ohio’s 11th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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