Opinion: We Must Protect the ACA
Before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, many Coloradans wondered why they were living in the greatest country in the world but still didn’t have access to quality, affordable health care. The health care system was set up to benefit giant insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and patients were paying the price.
But that all changed nine years ago when President Obama took critical steps to start improving our health care system with the creation of the ACA. Overall Colorado has benefited from the ACA. Medicaid expansion combined with a well-functioning insurance marketplace has reduced the uninsured rate in our state by almost half. There are protections for people with pre-existing conditions, young people can stay on their parents insurance until they are 26, and we ended lifetime limits.
For me, the ACA is very personal. My sister is challenged with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities. While she has intense health care problems, her needs go far beyond just health care. She needs support in every aspect of daily living — housing, food preparation, transportation, and employment. Her needs far outstrip our family’s ability to care for her.
Like many in the disabilities community, my sister’s care is provided through Medicaid. Without this care, I know she would have died many years ago. Please understand that I am not being overly dramatic on this point.
Unfortunately, since President Trump took office, his administration and its allies have doubled down on the repeal agenda. Last year, officials took to the courts again, suing the federal government to repeal the ACA in its entirety, which would have devastated Medicaid. The ACA has created a strong model for care, but instead of working to improve what has already been established, some are trying to eliminate it all together. If the repeal of the ACA was successful, millions of Americans would lose their coverage and people like my sister would likely lose their lives.
I have been privileged to talk with Coloradans across the state and to listen to their concerns regarding health care. One of the most significant issues facing Coloradans, especially those in rural areas, is the high cost of health insurance due to a lack of options. The U.S. is one of the only industrialized counties in the world that does not have universal health care, which is why in 2013, I was a co-sponsor on the bill to expand Medicaid access and have continued to support this effort.
Cost should not prevent people from seeing a doctor and staying healthy. However, there are areas of Colorado that have only one health care option, making the costs exorbitant. Expanding Medicaid or increasing health coverage would provide Coloradans with another option to choose from, ultimately lowering the costs of health insurance. When Coloradans have access to appropriate and effective healthcare options, it leads to people getting better overall health and life outcomes.
Now is the time for Colorado to lead the way for the rest of the country in making sure our government works for the people it serves. On the anniversary of the ACA, we should be looking at new, innovative ways to lower costs and increase access for everyone in our state. And that starts by protecting our care.
— Dave Young, State Treasurer