Congress Must Focus On Public Health To Avoid Another Crisis

August 4, 2022

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Source: Las Vegas Sun, by Christina Madison

Our country is on the verge of another health care crisis, and families across Nevada will pay the price if Congress fails to protect our access to affordable care and coverage.

I am a clinical pharmacist specializing in public health with a focus on communicable diseases. My nearly two-decade career has been spent working in communities counseling patients on how to treat and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. For the past two years, that work kicked into overdrive. I set up COVID testing sites and vaccine clinics, where I facilitated the administration of more than 11,000 vaccine doses in Southern Nevada.

My work over the years — and especially during the pandemic — has put a spotlight on the need to focus on our health. We need Congress to focus on our health, too, and extend the tax credits included in the American Rescue Plan. Last year, a record number of Americans signed up for marketplace coverage, including more than 101,000 Nevadans. Ninety-percent of those who enrolled in health insurance coverage through the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange received premium subsidies to make their coverage more affordable.

These provisions delivered big for Nevada families. I hear it all the time from the patients I see at the two clinical practices I maintain — having extra layer of financial security and less stress from having to choose between affording health care or paying rent, cooling their homes, and keeping food on the table was a godsend. In fact, the average family saved $2,400 a year on their health care because of these affordable plans.

But unfortunately, the expanded tax credits that powered those savings will expire at the end of the year, and millions of Americans could see their premiums increase in 2023.

Fortunately, our Democratic representatives in Washington, D.C., are working to keep premiums low and further reduce health care costs. Last November, Reps. Dina Titus, Susie Lee, and Steven Horsford voted to extend the health care premium reductions in the American Rescue Plan to prevent our premiums from skyrocketing at the end of this year. Our senators, Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, are on board to extend the premium tax credits for working families, too. Other Democrats in the Senate should follow their lead. If Senate Democrats fail to get the bill passed, 9 million Americans will face increased health care costs and 3 million will lose coverage altogether.

The American Rescue Plan helped give millions of American families the resources to focus on their health when we needed it most. For many families, this has not only helped make ends meet during the pandemic but allowed them to access essential care for the first time in years.

We cannot go backwards. Lawmakers need to listen to Nevadans and not let the health care premium reductions in the American Rescue Plan expire. If they do, millions will see dramatic increases in their 2023 health insurance premiums, and many will no longer be able to afford insurance at all. But the saving grace is that this is entirely preventable. Senate Democrats must act now to ensure families can continue to afford the health care they need.

 

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