The incoming Trump administration and the new Republican Congress have demonstrated little understanding of the threats faced by American families.
They have started the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has extended health insurance and protection from health-cost-related financial ruin to 20 million Americans. President-elect Donald Trump is also carrying forward with his plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars and provide little, if any, protection.
I became a pediatrician to serve the most vulnerable members of our society. Before the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans lacked health insurance due to either expense or pre-existing medical conditions. The improvements the ACA has made to coverage, health services and our health care system have been profound. By prohibiting the exclusion of individuals with pre-existing conditions, the ACA guarantees that 129 million people will not be denied health insurance, and 19 million of those protected are children.
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Young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance through the age of 26 thanks to the ACA, which has made a substantive impact on children with chronic health needs due to Type 1 diabetes, disability or cancer who used to age out of eligibility on their parents’ plans and were then denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
Parents suffer enough worry and stress when their child develops a devastating medical condition. Repealing the ACA means taking away coverage for this age group and throwing already suffering families into financial ruin as well.
Providing families with health insurance creates real security: My families can access preventive health services and regular primary care to ensure they stay healthy or seek care before small problems become large and expensive complications. A simple urinary tract infection can turn into devastating kidney and blood infections if care is delayed. Chest pain indicating minor blockage of a coronary artery can progress to full blockage that requires major surgery.
Stripping away health insurance coverage by repealing the ACA represents a clear and present danger to American families, but the same cannot be said of the focus Trump has made of building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out of the country. A Pew Center study reported that 72 percent of Americans support undocumented immigrants staying in the country. The statistics reveal why families feel this way.
According to a report by the American Immigration Council, immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are less likely to commit serious crimes than the native-born. Trump’s wall, which he is now advocating for taxpayer dollars to build, would cost between $10 billion and $25 billion, and does nothing to answer real threats to the well-being of American families.
Republicans are starting the repeal process and there is every reason to believe they will be successful unless we make our opposition known. Last week, four major medical organizations including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Association of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American College of Physicians, representing 400,000 physicians across the country, wrote a letter to congressional leaders arguing against repeal.
The Affordable Care Act has fundamentally changed our health care system for the better. We will not sit quietly by while Trump and the Republican Congress threaten the security and well-being of our families in a very real way by taking away their health insurance. I hope you will stand with us by calling your representatives and senators to urge against repeal. The protection of families should be our highest priority.
Dr. Lisa Patel is a pediatrician who practices in Walnut Creek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.