Las Vegas Sun

August 23, 2019

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OPINION:

Bold vision needed to tackle health care in America

One of the biggest challenges facing our nation is the need for affordable health care. I have heard from many Nevadans who are suffering because of the harmful actions by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, who have been relentless in their efforts to dismantle and undermine the Affordable Care Act at every turn.

Republicans have shortened the window for open enrollment, repealed the individual mandate, weakened the required coverage of pre-existing conditions and eliminated cost-sharing-reduction payments, all of which has disrupted our health care system, threatened coverage for millions and increased rates.

According to the Center for American Progress, Nevadans are projected to face premium increases of over $800 next year on average thanks to their sabotage. On top of these disastrous actions, Republicans managed to pass a tax scam in January that increases our national debt by nearly $2 trillion and have since sought cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security to finance their fiscal recklessness.

Their smoke-and-mirror efforts, however, do not fool Nevadans who see the positive impact the ACA has had for them and their families.

Between 2010 and 2015, an estimated 285,000 Nevadans gained health insurance coverage following the passage of the ACA. The ACA standardized important consumer protections by ensuring that health plans provide essential benefits like maternity care and prescription drugs. It also eliminated insurance plans’ ability to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV/AIDS, cerebral palsy and diabetes.

Nevada also expanded Medicaid under the ACA, and roughly 631,000 Nevadans, or 17 percent of our population, are enrolled in this vital program. Sixty-one percent of our children, including 32 percent with special health needs, rely on Medicaid for their health care. Notably, Medicaid expansion has successfully reduced disparities in health care coverage faced by Hispanic Nevadans, dropping their uninsured rate from 34 percent to 19 percent between 2013 and 2015.

Despite this progress, Republicans have made it clear that they want to return to a time when insurance companies could cherry-pick who and what they covered, when millions of Americans used the emergency room as their primary doctor, and when families went bankrupt trying to pay their medical bills.

In Congress, I have proudly voted more than 60 times against Republican efforts to undermine the ACA. In May, I wrote to our state’s Interim Committee on Health Care, urging state legislators to reject harmful changes to essential health benefits and the expansion of subpar, junk insurance plans. While defending and improving the ACA should be our priority, Democrats like me are not afraid to dream big. That’s why I support Medicare for All, a plan to give all Americans free primary care and prevention services, dietary and nutritional therapies, prescription drugs, emergency care, long-term care, mental health services, and dental and vision services.

We can make this plan a reality by revisiting our tax structure in a way that helps families and businesses rather than hurts them, unlike the Republican tax law. And Medicare for All would ultimately save our country trillions of dollars in health care costs while putting universal health coverage in reach.

Medicare for All is a bold idea, but Congress must be bold to solve our nation’s affordable health care crisis. While I will continue to try to find ways of reaching across the aisle, I hope that my Republican colleagues realize that leaving millions without access to affordable and reliable health care is not the way forward. Simply too much is at stake for Nevadans.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., was first elected to Congress in 2008. She has served the 1st District since 2013.