Health Care

Affordable, quality health coverage should be a right and not a privilege in the United States of America. I believe access to health care is a moral issue and I am proud of my work to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I will work through whatever means available to ensure that this life-saving legislation is not recklessly repealed without a viable replacement. Millions in Maryland are at risk—not just the over 400,000 who gained insurance through Maryland Medicaid expansion and the state exchange.

Before we passed the Affordable Care Act, too many people fell through the cracks. Too many families were destroyed because they could not afford access to health care and therefore they didn’t get the tests they needed. Perhaps they did not catch a preventable disease earlier, leading to tremendous health care treatment costs and possibly losing their life in the process. We saw too many families go through bankruptcy because they could not afford the health care that they needed. We saw too many people literally cutting their prescription pills in half, hoping to stretch out medication for a longer period of time, or forgoing care altogether because they couldn’t afford it, even though they knew they were compromising their health.

Today, many who had inadequate coverage, pre-existing condition restrictions, annual and lifetime coverage caps, or limits to preventative health services now have access to higher-quality coverage. We’ve slowed the growth of health care costs to the lowest rate in modern history. For Deamonte Driver, and many other children like him, we made pediatric dental coverage and Essential Health Benefit (EHB) under the ACA. Patients’ rights have been protected and consumers have saved millions of dollars through core ACA provisions such as requiring insurance companies to cover adults and children with preexisting conditions, eliminating annual and lifetime limits, and allowing children to stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26. Being a woman is no longer a valid reason for health insurance companies to charge higher premiums, and insurance companies can no longer drop people the moment they get sick. In Maryland, the ACA lowered the state uninsured rate from 12.9 percent in 2013 to 6.6 percent in 2015. And for the first time under Federal law, insurance companies are required to spend more of insurance premiums on essential health services instead of on CEO salaries and must publicly justify their actions if they want to raise premium rates by 10 percent or more.

The ACA also expanded mental health coverage to an additional 48 million people in need nationwide. The ACA’s Medicaid expansion helped another 1.6 million Americans gain access to substance abuse treatment, which has been critical as states seek to combat the opioid abuse epidemic. In Maryland, 79.4 percent of statewide mental health services are provided to Medicaid enrollees. Repealing the ACA will not only dissolve these patient protections and benefits, but it will eliminate critical financial assistance such as premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions. In Maryland, 75 percent of the consumers who enrolled in private plans through the Maryland Health Connection for 2016 were eligible for premium subsidies. Maryland enrollees receive an average tax credit of $243 to help pay their monthly premiums. Each year, Marylanders receive almost $200 million in advanced premium tax credits.

I am proud to represent a state that is home to pioneers in biomedical research such as Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)- among others. Our state’s tradition of leading remarkable innovations in healthcare delivery and advances in biotechnology have led to life-saving research and initiatives to erase health disparities among minority and other underserved communities. These institutions are developing vaccines for deadly diseases from Zika virus to the influenza. This significant progress is making a difference in the lives of Marylanders, families nationwide and worldwide. I am proud of Maryland’s leadership in high quality health care, and I will work hard to maintain this standard and ensure comprehensive, affordable health care is available to Americans nationwide.