Access to affordable, quality health care is a fundamental human right, and yet millions go without the preventative care and urgent treatment they need. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a cornerstone of President Obama’s legacy, has done more to close the health care gap than ever before, even when facing resistance and sabotage from ideological opponents. For example, Texas has refused to expand Medicaid as outlined in the ACA and effectively rejected billions of federal dollars that we’ve already paid into the system. As a result, Texas has some of the highest insurance premiums, property taxes, and rates of uninsured in the entire country. It’s disgraceful.
Now there is talk of Congress and the new administration planning to repeal core parts of the ACA. A recent report from the Urban Institute shows that such a move would result in nearly 59 million people, mostly poor and working-class, losing coverage. The number of uninsured people would be higher than pre-ACA levels from 2009. There are very real and potentially tragic consequences to repealing the ACA instead of working to improve it. So what can we do?
Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act is now open and will be open until January 31, 2017. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for eligible individuals to enroll as soon as possible to secure access to health care for 2017. Also, high participation in the ACA exchange makes it politically and logistically difficult to repeal the ACA or make drastic changes to it.
Visit www.HealthCare.gov for more information, and refer to these deadlines below:
December 15, 2016: Last day to enroll in or change plans for coverage to start January 1, 2017.
January 1, 2017: 2017 coverage starts for those who enroll in or change plans by December 15.
January 31, 2017: Last day to enroll in or change a 2017 health plan. After this date, you can enroll in or change plans only if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
People who need assistance with their application or have questions can receive local help from Enroll Gulf Coast by visiting www.EnrollGulfCoast.com or by calling 832-393-5423.
Spread the Word
Help make sure everyone in your circle knows that enrollment for the ACA is now open, and encourage them to enroll. We all need to do our part. I’ve included a sneak preview of billboards I’m putting up in partnership with Enroll Gulf Coast and the Houston Area Urban League later this month to reach more people. But we also need your help on the ground. From social media to emails to phone calls, getting the word out about enrollment and making sure people sign up is key to protecting the ACA.
Make sure your elected officials hear from you about health care issues related to the ACA, Medicaid, and other policies. Make phone calls and write letters. Share your health care stories on social media and with friends. There is a real human cost to denying people health care and driving up costs to score political points. We need to all raise our voices in unison and speak up today.
Those of us who believe health care is a human right and a public good must be prepared to advocate for affordable quality health care for all people in the coming years. We cannot afford to abandon the progress made by the ACA and leave some of our most vulnerable populations without care. The cost is too great to bear.