During the 2018 election, as a candidate for Congress, I had the honor of talking to thousands of Alaskans from every community in the state. One concern that unified all Alaskans was our need for access to quality, affordable health care. I heard from a tearful 59-year-old self-employed home inspector who cannot afford her health insurance premiums and is rationing her prescription medicine. I heard from a tire shop owner who wants to provide health insurance for his employees but is spending more on premiums than on wages for many of them, and he cannot afford to expand his business simply due to these out of control costs. In Alaska, the costs of health care and health insurance are the biggest drags on our economic growth.
Congress needs to act now to bring down health care costs. The past few years have only seen proposals that will make the situation worse. I have consistently opposed efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (or its protections for pre-existing conditions) without a clear plan for an improved replacement system. These repeal efforts have put Alaskan seniors, families, children and those with pre-existing conditions (including pregnant women, diabetics, migraine sufferers and cancer patients) in the position of constant worry that the care they are now stretching to barely afford will soon be far beyond their reach.
Recently, a judge in the federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act, putting health care at risk once again. While many members of Congress took the opportunity to intervene through a House Resolution, Alaska’s lone Congressman supported full repeal (without a plan for replacement) by voting against the resolution. The future of our health care remains uncertain and at risk. This kind of uncertainty when it comes to our state’s economy and the health of our citizens is unconscionable.
Americans have stated, overwhelmingly, that they support the many health care protections created by the Affordable Care Act – pre-existing condition protections, extended secure coverage for children, elimination of lifetime coverage limits, and Medicaid Expansion. Yet, instead of looking for smart ways to improve access and decrease costs, those in Washington, D.C., are once again playing politics.
All over Alaska, I heard stories of families whose financial welfare and the lives of family members have been saved by health care protections that are now being threatened. Our communities are safer and benefiting from increased mental health care and addiction management, and our state benefits from a large influx of federal money that supports these programs. Health care is the most stable industry in Alaska that’s still growing rapidly, providing jobs to thousands of Alaskans.
Alaska’s delegation should be focused on building upon the foundation that is currently in place—making health care affordable for working families, lowering prescriptions costs, increasing consumer choice, ending surprise medical bills, and expanding services available before deductibles. They should not be champing at the bit to tear it all down.
This is a time when we all expect Congress to work together to improve our access to affordable health care. Nowhere is that more critical than in Alaska. Everyone knows that we suffer from the highest health care costs in the nation. There are effective actions that should be taken right now, and promising potential solutions that should be pursued immediately. Alaskans are expecting our Congressman to keep his campaign promises – set aside politics and do what’s best for Alaska.
Alyse Galvin was the Democratic candidate for Alaska’s U.S. House seat in 2018. She previously worked for Great Alaska Schools.
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