By Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Governor Steve Sisolak
When Nevada student Rachel Siota was 19 years old, she was diagnosed with endometriosis. By 24 she had also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and was fighting two illnesses that caused debilitating pain and threatened to derail her education. Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, Rachel could have faced high costs for treatment, and been denied insurance coverage after being forced off her mother’s insurance after graduation. But thanks to the ACA, Rachel was able to get treatment without a co-pay. In addition, the guaranteed protections for those with preexisting conditions and the extended age cap for remaining under a parent’s health plan mean Rachel didn’t have to worry about whether or not she’d be covered as she got older. Now 27, Rachel has her life back and she credits the ACA.
There are hundreds of thousands of Nevadans like Rachel who have gained coverage and crucial benefits under the Affordable Care Act. The Silver State’s uninsured rate has plummeted from 23.5 percent to 11.4 percent since the ACA was enacted, and in our rural communities, our uninsured rate has dropped 28 points from 42% to 14% since 2010. Over 400,000 Nevadans have gained coverage, including 158,000 children, and countless more have the peace of mind that they can visit the doctor’s office without being charged for things like cancer screenings and wellness checks. This past November, Nevada voters made it clear that they want representatives in their hometowns, in Carson City, and in Washington D.C. who are going to fight to keep these protections and strengthen the ACA. Yet, Republican leadership in Congress seems to have missed that memo entirely.
Earlier this year, attorneys general of twenty states filed a lawsuit in Texas that aims to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. In the past few weeks, the Department of Justice and President Trump have also signed on to this misguided attempt to gut Americans’ health care protections. If successful, 200,000 Nevadans who gained coverage under the Medicaid expansion could see their health insurance disappear. Over 1.2 million Nevadans with preexisting conditions – the list includes asthma, diabetes, cancer and even pregnancy – could be denied coverage or charged more for insurance. Families that have children with complex medical needs could once again face bankruptcy or spend decades paying off medical bills for their children with the return of annual and lifetime spending caps. Young Nevadans under age 26 could be forced off their parents’ medical plans and seniors could be charged more for their care. President Trump has said that the Republicans will be the “party of health care”, but deliberately weakening the ACA, kicking millions of Americans off of their health insurance plans and intentionally destabilizing the health care marketplace only makes them the party of havoc.
We’ve already seen what President Trump and a Republican controlled Congress would do on health care. In 2017, even after years to prepare a plan, they failed to produce any health care solutions that would protect those who gained coverage under the ACA, defend those with preexisting conditions, lower drug prices or safeguard Medicaid expansion. Instead, after one failed vote after another, they gave up on legislation and are now trying to sabotage Americans’ health care through the courts. Even today, as Democrats in Congress are proposing new legislation to make the health law work better for American families, nearly all Congressional Republicans have refused to come to the table and work with Democrats. They aren’t trying to fix our health care problems or come up with new ideas, they’re simply trying to rip health care away from millions of Americans.
Through our work across the Silver State, we’ve seen the difference quality, affordable health care has made in the lives of Nevadans. Both of us have had the honor of speaking to cancer survivors, single mothers raising children with life-threatening illnesses, hardworking families and resilient young people who all credit the Affordable Care Act with their health and their lives. That’s why we’re working together to protect the health care Nevadans rely on. In December, led by Attorney General Aaron Ford and supported by many of Nevada’s state and federal leaders, our state joined an appeal led by a coalition of 16 other states and the District of Columbia to defend the ACA in court. In D.C., the Nevada Senate delegation has cosponsored a resolution to protect hardworking families from this Administration’s attacks on their health care. The ACA is the law of the land. It is not perfect, but it is a massive improvement on a system that before the ACA had bankrupted the sick and ignored those in need. It is our responsibility as policymakers to fight to improve it, make health insurance premiums more affordable, stabilize the insurance market and expand the number of quality, affordable health care options available to patients and families in Nevada.
Nevadans raised their voices in 2017 during the Affordable Care Act repeal votes in the Senate and again this November during the midterm elections to fight for their health care. And we need Nevadans to come forward again to condemn the decision of this Administration to continue their attempts to rip away health care from hundreds of thousands of hardworking Nevada families. Rest assured, we will be right there fighting with you.