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ACA shows the need for universal health care

I have heard countless stories from constituents about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has saved their lives and kept them from financial ruin. Like Albert Templeton, who never would be able to afford his prostate cancer medications without the ACA; a diabetic who can now afford his life-saving medications; and a husband who won’t have to worry after his child is born with a pre-existing heart condition.

But for all its successes, it is also equally clear that the ACA failed to fix long-standing fundamental issues in the health insurance industry: Paychecks aren’t keeping up with rising health care costs, and insurance companies are still in the driver’s seat, making decisions about what care Americans receive, when they receive it and at what cost.

Those fundamental issues won’t be fully resolved until we establish a universal health care system that ensures quality health care is a right for all Americans – not a privilege for the wealthiest.

Achieving that goal and moving from a corporate-driven health care system to a patient-centered system that ensures Americans receive the right care, in the right place, and at the right time has been my life’s passion.

However, health care in America is on life support. Insurance carriers are leaving some markets at a breakneck pace, competition is dwindling, and costs are continuing to increase.

All of those issues are being aggravated by Congressional inaction and dysfunction and the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the ACA.

Congress has been playing a partisan version of Russian roulette with people’s lives, and it is shamefully driving up premiums as well as fear and uncertainty among the American people.

We have to get serious about meaningful health care reform: People’s lives are at risk.

As the latest attempt to repeal the ACA fails, I am hopeful that Senate negotiations to stabilize the insurance marketplace will produce results.

Republicans and Democrats have an obligation to come together and address the two main pressing issues in our health care system: cost and coverage.

First, we have to ensure that the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction payments, which help low-income Americans afford out-of-pocket costs, will remain available. This common-sense move alone would prevent a 20 percent spike in premiums.

Further, Congress has a responsibility to increase access to, and affordability of, prescription drugs by holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for the prices they charge for critical medications. Currently, drug prices continue to rise faster than wages by large margins, and Americans often pay two- to six-times more for brand-name drugs compared to the same drug in other countries.

To immediately address the lack of insurance coverage, I am introducing legislation to allow the millions of Americans who live in counties without zero or limited insurance marketplace options to utilize their premium tax credits to buy into the Medicaid program.

Lastly, the federal government in many ways provides the engine that powers our health care system, but states are behind the wheel. They license providers, administer Medicaid programs, oversee insurance companies and their provider networks, and develop our nation’s health care infrastructure in under-served areas. States also have to respond to small businesses struggling with the cost of providing health care coverage to their employees, which has limited their ability to hire more employees, maintain retirement benefits and increase wages. Regardless of what is happening on the federal level, states have to be part of the solution.

I have received tens of thousands of letters, comments and calls from New Mexicans demanding a better health care system.

Regardless of whether they are a Democrat or a Republican, they all are concerned about quality, affordable health care for themselves and their family.

They don’t care that petty, partisan politics has kept Congress from enacting a bipartisan health care package to stabilize the health insurance market, reduce cost and increase access.

They want action and believe we can’t afford to wait any longer.

I completely agree with them. Let’s get to work.