I am a health policy nerd and the AHCA is my worst nightmare. In the days following the election, I knew that “repeal and replace” would change my life as a social worker and healthcare advocate. Now as the Republican party tries to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (again), I am more nervous than ever before.
The AHCA would kick 17.5 million people off health insurance and was not even analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) when it was voted on. Essentially, this means that representatives in the U.S. House voted on legislation that can have a drastic impact on millions of Americans without knowing exactly what that impact would be.
One of my biggest concerns for Virginians and all Americans is that the bill will allow states to opt out of protections for people with preexisting conditions. Half of Americans have a pre-existing condition. With this bill, around 50% of Virginia will be charge exorbitant rates for health insurance or be pushed into “high risk pools,” which offer long waiting lists for coverage, skimpy plans, and sky-high costs to anyone with a “pre-existing condition.” By the way, that 50% of people who will lose protections includes children. 1 in 4 children have a pre-existing condition.
Don’t forget: The definition of preexisting conditions includes gender-based factors, such as post-partum depression, and even being a survivor of rape or domestic violence. Most common non-gender related pre-existing conditions include: high blood pressure, behavioral health disorders, high cholesterol, asthma and chronic lung disease, and osteoarthritis and other joint disorders are the most common types of pre-existing conditions. These are conditions that touch all communities and treatment shouldn’t have to bankrupt families.
Pre-existing protection isn’t the only issue facing our state; 400,000 of our residents are without healthcare because we have not expanded Medicaid. As a healthcare advocate, I know that one of the first steps to a working and economically thriving Virginia is expanding Medicaid. The lack of expansion has cost the state $10.4 billion in federal funds. Essentially, we are losing out on a free economic boost and we are unable to put tax dollars where they are needed the most. That is why Virginians are suffering.
We must turn the VA House blue in November so that we can fight these ridiculous policies. Republicans will continue to ruin lives and harm the physical, social, and economic status of Virginia. I know that a healthy Virginia is a prosperous Virginia. All people deserve the right to affordable and quality healthcare. That is why I will protect residents in the Commonwealth by fighting to expand Medicaid and defending protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Healthcare is a basic human right.