One of my top priorities is finding bipartisan solutions for the challenges impacting Arizona families, including access to affordable health care coverage. While the Affordable Care Act made improvements to our health care system, higher premiums and reduced coverage options are still major issues we must resolve. Rather than focusing on fixes, Washington has offered us partisan gridlock. The most recent effort to fix our health care system, the American Health Care Act, is a prime example of what Congress should not do.
I could not support the AHCA because it would have restricted access to health care for those who need it most. An independent review of the legislation by the Congressional Budget Office estimated nearly 24 million Americans would lose health coverage over the next 10 years. While many would choose to go without coverage, millions more would be unable to afford the increasing premiums. County-by-county analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed premiums in the First Congressional District rising more than 700 percent under the AHCA. In addition, thousands with preexisting conditions would be saddled with rising costs for ongoing treatment and coverage.
Recently, I shared the story of a young boy from Flagstaff named Cameron with my colleagues in Congress. Cameron was born with a congenital heart defect that he will live with his entire life. Thanks to a surgery at 5 weeks old, he is a happy, healthy 8-year-old boy, but he will require future surgeries and care. His parents shared his story, like so many other Arizonans who called and wrote to my offices, to express their concerns about future affordability and availability of health coverage for their son as he grows up with this preexisting condition. I told Cameron’s story during a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives because I believe it is important to keep in mind the consequences of our actions.
The AHCA would have disproportionately impacted our rural and tribal communities by increasing premiums for older and poorer Arizonans, stripping price protections for seniors and reducing Medicaid funding. The law would have created insurmountable barriers for rural hospitals trying to provide adequate care. These hospitals in remote communities would be crippled by the rising costs of uncompensated care for those who would not be able to afford coverage.
Not only would the AHCA have negatively impacted Arizonans, young and old, it highlighted the problems with our legislative process. Congress owes the American people transparency and accountability as they craft major legislation; not closed door meetings and backroom deals. In the future, we must have an open process that includes input from stakeholders. If we are ever going to make significant improvements to health care in America we must work together and include professionals who work, day in and day out, to deliver care to our communities. Groups, such as the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and AARP can offer valuable insight and expertise.
We can no longer allow political theater take front seat to sound policy-making. The Affordable Care Act was not perfect, but there are many areas where we can find bipartisan support to reduce regulations and improve our health care system. The recent failure of the AHCA gives us an opportunity to create serious, bipartisan health care fixes. I am committed to working with our medical community, local and state leaders and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find solutions.