Affordable Healthcare for All

 
 

I have fought for human rights all my life, and I believe that every American has a right to affordable healthcare.

It is cruel to force families to choose between life saving treatment for their children and avoiding bankruptcy, as we did before passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). There’s no reason for America to remain the only country in the world where people know – and dread – the term “pre-existing condition.” And we can’t build an innovation economy if people feel they can’t leave a job to start a new business or pursue an invention without losing healthcare.

 

Defend the Affordable Care Act

The ACA was not perfect, but it made things better. The uninsured rate decreased by half; essential benefits like maternity care were guaranteed; mental health coverage vastly expanded; children could stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they were 26; and no American could be denied health care because of a pre-existing condition.

My opponent, Congressman Lance, voted to repeal affordable healthcare 19 different times. He voted to another 45 times to take out essential elements of the ACA. That is an undeniable pattern of partisan behavior in which Lance turned his back on the families he is supposed to represent. 

And now, the Trump administration and Republican leadership in Congress are sabotaging the ACA: by repealing the individual mandate, which ensures that the costs of insurance are widely and equitably shared; by ending payments to insurance companies that keep the cost of insurance down; by promoting junk insurance plans that leave out essential health services and attacking protections for those with pre-existing conditions. 

We’re already seeing the consequences: insurance companies are leaving ACA exchanges due to uncertainty about the marketplace and the expectation that fewer healthy people will be covered, and the cost of healthcare for everyone – especially seniors and those who need it most – is going up.  In New Jersey, monthly premiums for a Silver Plan are up 16% since 2016, and will rise even more without the individual mandate. Meanwhile, the sabotage of the ACA has not saved taxpayers money – in fact, the increase in direct-to-consumer subsidies by the federal government (a result of ending cost-sharing subsidies to insurance companies) is predicted to increase the deficit by $194 billion.

I will work to stop the assault on healthcare in America. We need to move forward, not backward – fixing what was wrong with the Affordable Care Act, and building on its advances to achieve, once and for all, universal and affordable healthcare. 

 

Everyone should be covered

We would not accept a system that forces only bad drivers to have car insurance or only irresponsible homeowners to have fire insurance – because everyone suffers misfortunes, and the only way to keep costs down is to ask everyone to pay into the pool. Health insurance is no different. I would support restoring the health insurance mandate nationally, just as we are doing in New Jersey; that will encourage younger and healthier people to get preventive care, and stop insurance rates from skyrocketing for older Americans and for those with serious health conditions. I also would support paying the cost-sharing subsidies that allow insurance companies to provide affordable coverage to those in need while saving taxpayers money.

 

Stop discrimination against women’s healthcare needs

I will work to ensure we fund reproductive health programs, for the sake of women, men, and families. I support and am proud to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood, which provides basic healthcare to millions of women in New Jersey, and has contributed to historic reductions in teen pregnancies and the spread of infectious disease. I will support access to contraceptives, and defend the progress the Affordable Care Act made by requiring insurers to provide women contraceptive coverage. I believe in a woman’s right to choose when, if, and how to start a family.

I also oppose the Trump administration’s effort to push through junk insurance plans, which won’t cover basic services like maternity care, mental health, and prescription drugs. It will create two parallel insurance markets in America, with substandard care for one group of Americans, and unaffordable care for another.

 

No one should be punished for a pre-existing condition

We cannot go back to the days when children born with congenital heart disease could be denied affordable coverage for essential treatment, or when women faced higher premiums because they were pregnant.  In the 7th congressional district, over 330,000 people under age 65 have what insurance companies consider a pre-existing condition: everything from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, to past incidence of cancer or a heart attack, to being pregnant.  They could be denied health insurance or see premiums spike if the Trump-backed legal challenge to protections for pre-existing conditions succeeds. We should not wait for that case to go through the courts, since the uncertainty it creates will further destabilize the health insurance marketplace. Congress must reaffirm these protections now.

More freedom and competition: a Medicare choice for everyone

I believe that every American, no matter their age, should have the freedom to buy into a Medicare plan – if they choose. Medicare has worked well for seniors in America, while minimizing bureaucracy and controlling costs.  In 2012, more than 90% of Medicare beneficiaries were satisfied with their coverage, compared to 80% of those with employer-based plans who were satisfied – and a recent study showed that upon entering Medicare, people previously insured on the private insurance market saw their spending on healthcare fall by an average of 32.4%. If every American had the option to buy into Medicare through their employer or the individual market, the result would be more competition and lower costs for consumers, as well as a pathway to decent healthcare coverage for everyone.

I believe that more choice is better than more demands or rules. Tens of millions of people across America get their health insurance through work and might not want to give up their plans. By making Medicare a universal option we would allow people to keep plans that they like, provide an affordable alternative to people who don’t like their plans, and drive down healthcare costs for everyone.  It would also offer small businesses a more affordable option to offer their employees

Creating such an option would also save money for taxpayers. According to the Congressional Budget Office, allowing consumers to choose a public plan like Medicare could reduce the budget deficit by $158 billion over the next 10 years because fewer people would need government subsidies to purchase insurance.

 

Lowering Drug Prices

There are 43 million enrollees in Medicare Part D – prescription drug coverage purchased through Medicare – which accounts for approximately 29% of all national retail pharmaceutical spending. But current laws prevent the Secretary of Health and Human Services from negotiating with drug companies over prescription prices. Unlike any private carrier, or even other public ones, Medicare must accept any drug price as proposed by pharmaceutical companies. So seniors under Medicare Part D pay 73% more than individuals enrolled in Medicaid and 80% more than individuals buying medication through Veterans Affairs.

This is a massive and avoidable cost to enrollees and to taxpayers, and the solution of allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices has broad bipartisan support. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 92% of Americans, including 96% of Democrats and 92% of Republicans, favor empowering the government to negotiate drug prices. I agree.

I also believe we need more transparency in drug pricing. Martin Shkreli, the infamous “Pharma Bro,” may have been convicted for defrauding investors, but he became famous for increasing the price of an existing life-saving drug from $13.50 for a monthly supply to $750. I support allowing state attorney generals to sue generic drug manufacturers if they try to significantly raise the prices for older drugs. And for cases when drug price increases are valid or necessary, I support requiring pharmaceutical companies to provide advance notice of price increases of more than 15%. Finally, I am in favor of legislation that would stop bad actors in the pharmaceutical industry from blocking generic drug alternatives from reaching the market. Research has shown that when two generic drugs are on the market, their price falls to 50% of the original, which means massive savings for consumers.

 

Strengthening Drug Research and Development

The National Institutes of Health play an important role in drug research and development. I will work to increase their budget, unlike the Trump Administration, which has proposed an 18% cut. More than 80% of the NIH budget goes into grants for universities and nonprofits to perform research into new drugs, and from 2010-2016, NIH grants led to the creation of 210 new drugs, including 84 entirely new methods to treat diseases.

American pharmaceutical companies invest significant resources in the development of life-saving drugs, and the rest of the world benefits from our ingenuity. But government funding for basic research is vital in order to promote breakthroughs in the treatment of acute diseases (which aren’t always as profitable as those for treatment of chronic conditions), and medicines for populations that might not be able to afford high prices. I will work to protect and increase NIH funding to ensure we continue to strive towards innovative and better treatment for all conditions, regardless of profitability.

I will also support federal funding for stem cell research.  Families with loved ones suffering from debilitating diseases and injuries should not be denied the opportunity to benefit from promising therapies and cures.