Affordable Care Act turns 10 amid pandemic


By David Pepper - Guest columnist



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Pepper


Hospitals are running short of necessary supplies to treat victims.

Doctors and nurses are working overtime, often without protective gear, to care for those stricken.

The uninsured are balking at getting tested because of costs.

The coronavirus pandemic is revealing weak spots in our health care system and social safety net, and now Donald Trump is doubling down on his attempt to destroy one of the things that has helped most — the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act marks its 10th anniversary this week, and its popularity has reached an all-time high, with a clear majority of Americans now supporting the health care law.

What’s the reason for that support? It’s simple — the Affordable Care Act’s protections are making a difference for millions of Americans. More than 20 million Americans gained health coverage because of the health care law, and 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions cannot be charged more or dropped from their coverage by their insurance company. There are no more annual or lifetime limits on coverage, and women are no longer charged more for being a woman.

During a pandemic, the ACA’s protections are more important than ever. The health care law requires insurers to cover “essential health benefits,” which includes coronavirus testing and treatments. When a coronavirus vaccine is available, insurance companies will be required to cover it at no cost to the patient because of the Affordable Care Act. Insurance companies will be barred from discriminating against those who recover from COVID-19. The ACA boosted funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and it also helped hospitals, particularly many in rural communities, by reducing uncompensated care costs.

According to the Ohio Hospital Association, as many as one-fourth of Ohio’s hospitals would be at risk for closure without the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act has made a big impact on Ohio. Here in the Buckeye State, more than half a million Ohioans are covered under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, and almost five million Ohioans have pre-existing conditions. Our uninsured rate was cut in half, dropping from 12.3% in 2010 to 5.6% in 2016.

In Delaware County, the uninsured rate fell from 7.6% in 2010 to 3.9% in 2016.

Unfortunately, under the Trump administration, Ohio has been going backward on health care. After years of declining, Ohio’s uninsured rate is now inching up again, from 5.6% in 2016 to 6.0% in 2017 and 6.5% in 2018.

Ohio was one of eight states that saw its uninsured rate jump in 2018, and the number of uninsured kids increased by 28% from 2016 to 2018.

Donald Trump’s health care agenda is toxic, and even he seems to know it. That’s why he continues to lie about protecting people with pre-existing conditions.

Even after 10 years, Republicans have no plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and its life-saving protections. Their lawsuit to throw out the ACA is the Republican plan.

This is the choice facing voters in 2020 — are we going to sign on for four more years of Donald Trump’s ineptitude in a crisis and absolute devotion to undoing the Affordable Care Act? Or are we going to elect a president that is steady in a crisis and devoted to protecting health care, not taking it away?

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By David Pepper

Guest columnist

David Pepper is chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

David Pepper is chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.