Editor’s Note: Alyssa Milano is an actor, activist and producer. She is also the founder of #NoRA and Patriot NOT Partisan, a board member of the ERA Coalition, ACLU’s ambassador for reproductive rights and a co-chair of Health Care Voter. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
On Tuesday night, the American people sent House lawmakers a message: When you attack our health care, we will kick you out of office.
For nearly two years, Republicans in Congress and the White House repeatedly sabotaged black, white and brown Americans’ access to health care: They thought they could get away with attacking the Affordable Care Act and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and they were wrong.
Let’s be clear: The Republican Party attacked Americans’ access to health care – and it cost them the House of Representatives. In fact, according to CNN exit polls, heath care was the number one issue motivating voters in the midterms.
Since gaining control of both the White House and Congress, the GOP has sent a message to almost every person in American that our health care is not worth defending.
The Affordable Care Act protects the 130 million Americans who live with a pre-existing conditions by preventing insurance companies from discriminating against them based on their medical history. When Republicans attacked the Affordable Care Act, they turned their backs on every single one of those Americans.
They turned their backs on millions of working families when they threatened to slash Medicaid in favor of tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations. They turned their backs on women when they threatened reproductive health care and confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
In the cruelest and purest way, the Republican Party attempted to claim ownership over our bodies and sacrificed our health care in return for corporate profits.
And, in response, the American people rose up and fought back.
At every turn, we held rallies, we visited lawmakers’ offices, we were arrested defending our access to health care. Most importantly, we encouraged each other to share our personal stories and make politicians listen to the effects they have on our lives.
I have been humbled and empowered by the millions of brave storytellers who shared their experiences in the face of Republican threats.
In the past year, my friend Laura Packard had to battle her own senator in Nevada while fighting for access to health care – as she struggled with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. As she fought, President Donald Trump tried to intimidate her, Sen. Dean Heller refused to answer her and House Republicans repeatedly attempted to repeal the health care that she needed to survive – and yet, she took her story across the country and made her voice even louder.
Elena Hung, the mother of a 4-year-old with complex medical needs, responded to Republicans’ threats to take away her family’s health care by forcing them to answer to her directly. She and her daughter – and an army of parents and children – went straight to their lawmakers’ offices to make sure politicians knew exactly whose lives they put on the line when they attacked the Affordable Care Act.
Former Rep. Donna Edwards, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, decided to turn her pain into action when she confronted her former GOP colleagues in Congress – and demanded they protect our care.
Despite the overwhelming courage and strength of each of them, and so many others, their stories are not unique. In the lead-up to the midterm elections, health care advocates from every corner of the country began to rise up and mobilize against the Republican Party.
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On Tuesday night, the American people sent a message to every member of Congress that the effort to repeal our health care is dead. The Republican Party knows exactly how strongly the American people will react when they put our health care on the line.
To every single person who raised their voice in this election: Thank you. We won, and we won big.
Thanks to your voices, your stories, your courage and your actions, we delivered a blow to the Republican efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act and threaten people with pre-existing conditions. We held Republicans accountable for not listening to the American people. We voted to protect people with pre-existing conditions, we voted to defend our access to affordable health care and we voted for our lives.
Make no mistake: Tuesday will be remembered as the night when the American people won the battle to protect their health care.