Last year, we were finally able to realize the dream of enacting near-universal, affordable, quality health care for all Americans. No longer will Americans, when they become unemployed and need help the most, be denied insurance. Pre-existing conditions being a barrier to affordable coverage have been eliminated. Children will be able to stay on their parents policies until they are 26, providing coverage during those years when starting a career can be the toughest.
Democrats were pilloried by Republicans for supporting these health care reform measures. One of the main lines of attack was that we were pursuing the issue in lieu of a sharper focus on the economy.
But now, with a new Republican majority in control, in just our first regular week back in session, they are hypocritically focusing on repealing health care rather than the economy. Despite the fact that by eliminating health care reform they would severely, negatively impact our nation’s job growth, deficit, and the health of our people.
Not only would an unraveling of health care reform legislation increase our long-term debt by more than $1 trillion, it would knock the wind out of responsible job growth. The first priority of our Congress should be to grow our economy and create jobs. Since health care reform was enacted, we have seen 1.1 million new private sector jobs created in the U.S., one-fifth of which are in the health care sector. Health care reform will reduce the deficit by more than $200 billion over the next ten years. Responsibly reducing our debt can help create jobs and allow the U.S. retain our position as the world’s economic leader.
Most importantly, repealing health care reform will have significant consequences on the health of Americans and those living in Northern Virginia.
The Administration estimates that there are up to 129 million Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. Repealing health care reform would allow insurance companies to refuse coverage for these individuals – including children. In this area alone, more than 120,000 individuals, including 7,000 children, could be refused health coverage.
If health care reform is repealed, 3,500 seniors in Northern Virginia would again fall into the Medicare Part D “donut hole” and see prices rise for their prescription drugs. The average cost of prescription drugs for these Medicare beneficiaries would increase by more than $500 this year.
Repealing health care reform would force the 2,100 eligible young adults under the age of 26 off of their parents’ health insurance plans. Many of these young people would forgo health insurance altogether and add to the more than 23,000 individuals in the area without health insurance. It must be noted that those of us with health insurance eventually pay for the care of those without insurance through increasing premiums and reduced benefits.
Last year, I was proud to put the health of our people and our economy first when I supported health care reform. Repealing these important reforms will send our nation backward. This year, we need to keep the nation’s economy and welfare of Americans as priority number by standing against repeal.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.