Brigid Callahan Harrison on Health Care

Every American has the right to quality healthcare.

When my late husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I saw firsthand the devasting impact a healthcare crisis: suddenly, the cost of care had the ability to bankrupt us, and this was with health insurance.

President Trump and the Republicans in Congress have sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would result in many New Jerseyans losing their health coverage while increasing costs for those with insurance. Their proposed alternatives to the Affordable Care Act also would make it nearly impossible for South Jerseyans with preexisting conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and cancer to find health insurance – and if they were able to buy insurance, they would be relegated to pricey, low quality insurance. These alternate plans also would institute surcharges on premiums for those over age 50 but not yet eligible for Medicare, charging what amounts to an age tax.

In Congress, I will work to protect several key tenets from attack, including the provision that allows children to stay on their parent’s insurance until they turn 26, and protections for those with pre-existing conditions. All insurance – whether public or private – must cover the 10 essential benefits outlined in the Affordable Care Act.

Part of the skyrocketing cost of health care comes from the cost of prescription drugs. Today, pharmaceutical companies sometimes charge Americans up to ten times what they charge for the same drug in other countries, and Americans cannot afford that. Congress needs to pass a $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Congress also can help control costs by ending the ban on Medicare negotiating directly with drug companies. Using the leverage of Medicare-negotiated pricing will mean real price reductions, and these lower drug prices negotiated by Medicare should be available to all Americans, including those with private insurance.

Congress must work aggressively to ensure that all Americans have access to quality health care, and that costs are contained. Nearly three-quarters of Americans – 73 percent – support expanding the Affordable Care Act by adding a government-run public option, while preserving private health insurance. Such a plan will ensure that everyone has access to high quality health insurance so that a devastating medical diagnosis is not also a devasting financial diagnosis.