Written by Laura Packard
My name is Laura Packard and the Affordable Care Act saved my life. About five years ago, I walked into a doctor’s office with a nagging cough, and walked out with a stage four cancer diagnosis.
I was lucky.
As someone who is self-employed, I had junk insurance before Obamacare. When I was diagnosed, however, I was able to find a better plan through the Affordable Care Act. My coverage paid for the six months of chemotherapy and an additional month of radiation it took for me to be in remission today.
But too many people in America still can’t afford their health care.
At the time, I did not qualify for assistance with my health care premiums. Thanks to President Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress, who passed both the American Rescue Plan and the new Inflation Reduction Act, millions of people have been able to get help to pay for their insurance. Premiums are now capped at 8.5 percent of your income through 2025, increasing the number of middle and working class families that can afford Affordable Care Act plans.
That’s not all! The Inflation Reduction Act also caps seniors’ Medicare prescription drug copays at $2,000 a year, and smooths out their costs throughout the year. Insulin for seniors is capped at $35 per month. And basic preventative services like additional vaccines will be free to seniors. My dad is already asking me when he can get a free shingles vaccine next year.
Perhaps the most important piece is that Medicare can finally negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, saving seniors—and all taxpayers—billions of dollars. For decades, Big Pharma has won every fight, meaning Americans pay more for our drugs than any other industrialized country. No more—this time, Big Pharma lost.
To celebrate this historic win for more affordable health care, I’m traveling coast to coast on the Protect Our Care “Lower Costs Better Care” bus tour. We’re spreading the word about all the new benefits included in the Inflation Reduction Act. We need to preserve and extend these freedoms.
After the radical right-wing Supreme Court overturned our right to abortion, horror stories continue to spread. Restricted abortion access limits and complicates pregnant people’s options for cancer treatments. Reproductive-age patients with chronic illnesses—whether they are pregnant or not—can’t get their necessary medications, because it might cause an abortion. Women with miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies can’t get the treatment they need to stay healthy, or even alive.
In August, Republicans in the Senate forced the removal of a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act that would have capped insulin copays at $35 a month for everyone. And now they are threatening to undo lower prescription drug prices altogether.
The GOP’s opposition to affordable health insurance through the Affordable Care Act has long been documented—their decade-long quest came within one vote of killing it in 2017. If they get another chance, Republicans will surely try again. And their ongoing hostility to health care is clear through their refusal to expand Medicaid in states like Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.
We have made progress, but we still have much work to do until every American has access to the health care they need. Pay attention to how your legislators voted, and what they promise to do next year.
Campaign commercials are jamming the airwaves, and everyone is claiming to be a health care champion. Republicans’ votes say otherwise. Every Republican voted against lower drug prices, just like they moved in lockstep against the Affordable Care Act. And if they have the chance, they will strip away all of the health care gains we’ve made so far.
This column was produced by Progressive Perspectives, which is run by The Progressive magazine and distributed by Tribune News Service.
Laura Packard (@lpackard) is a Denver-based health care advocate and progressive digital consultant, executive director of Health Care Voter, and founder of Health Care Voices, organizing adults with serious medical conditions.