OpEd: Washington Must Act to Protect Affordable Care

affordable care
REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

We’re about to lose one of the most significant advances in health care made over the last decade unless Congress takes immediate action. That’s why I’m calling on Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Tom Suozzi to step up and protect lifesaving health coverage subsidies for New Yorkers.

These expanded subsidies help families afford the cost of health coverage. By driving down costs, this relief ensures Americans across the country don’t lose their access to care. While this program has been an essential component of our response to the COVID-19 epidemic, the impact of these benefits has been far greater. 

If made permanent, marketplace health insurance subsidies could cut the number of uninsured by 12 million nationwide next year, according to the Urban Institute. In New York alone, it would ensure 163,000 people would have access to the benefits of health coverage who otherwise would not be covered. This could cut the number of uninsured by nearly 15 percent across New York. 

These expanded tax credits must be made permanent in this year’s final budget reconciliation package. As we continue to confront the worst public health crisis in more than a century, these subsidies ensure that every community in our state can access basic care and take part in our ongoing recovery.

Despite the impact of this relief, these subsidies will disappear if Congress doesn’t act soon. If they expire, the effects on working- and middle-class families could be devastating. A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that premiums could double for the millions of Americans who buy their coverage on the marketplace. Another study by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that premiums could rise by as much as $600.

As we’ve fought to recover from COVID-19 and its deadly mutations, marketplace subsidies have become an essential lifeline for thousands of New Yorkers. And while it’s hard to imagine a worse time to lose health coverage than in the middle of a global pandemic, these expanded benefits are currently set to expire by the end of next year. That’s why it’s so critical that leaders like Senator Schumer and Representative Suozzi work with their colleagues to protect these essential benefits for every American still struggling to afford the cost of health coverage.

As the director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, I’ve seen our community go through decades of debate over how best to expand access to health care. While this conversation must continue, we cannot afford to lose a program that is providing coverage to so many right now. 

New York has always been at the forefront of efforts to protect the health and wellbeing of working families. From Teddy Roosevelt making the first national call to protect against “the hazards of sickness” to his cousin Franklin Roosevelt creating the Social Security program, our state’s leaders have long fought to ensure working people can live and age with dignity. In more recent times, our leaders in Congress fought to pass and then defend the Affordable Care Act. 

All these efforts have improved the lives of countless families across our state and around the country. Now is the chance to build on that legacy by protecting these life-saving subsidies before they expire. This will not only ensure that thousands of New Yorkers can keep their health coverage, but it will move us closer to the day when every American will have access to affordable, quality health care.

No family should ever be forced to choose between paying the bills or affording health coverage. These expanded marketplace subsidies must be made permanent now because they ensure that millions of Americans don’t have to make that choice. It’s time for our leaders in Washington to act.

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