Editor’s Note: Kamala Harris is a Democratic senator from California and a former Democratic candidate for president in 2020. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
We are still in the midst of a historic public health crisis that requires access to health care. The number of coronavirus infections and deaths continues to grow every day.
Families across the country have lost their incomes – and health insurance – and don’t know how they’ll pay bills or put food on the table. More than 40 million workers in the US have filed for unemployment.
Now more than ever, people need reliable health care that they can afford. But the Trump administration wants to tear down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that provided access to health care for millions of people across the country.
The ACA is a literal lifesaver: 20 million more Americans now have health insurance; 135 million people with pre-existing conditions now have protections; 17 million people now have coverage under expanded Medicaid; 12 million seniors now pay lower prescription drug costs; and 2.3 million young people can stay on their parents’ health insurance.
But if Republicans and the Trump administration have their way, millions of people will have the rug pulled out from under them in the middle of a deadly global health crisis.
Republicans have been fighting the ACA from the moment it became law. Mitch McConnell – in his own words – sought to make former President Barack Obama a one-term president and knew that destroying the ACA could help him do it.
Republicans in Congress weren’t concerned about ripping coverage away from the millions of people who finally had lifesaving treatment and protections. They only wanted to score political points and hurt former President Obama’s legacy. Republicans voted dozens of times to repeal the entire ACA (“root and branch” as McConnell described it), but failed every single time.
When President Donald Trump took office, he continued the party’s crusade to destroy the ACA and undermine the American health care system. His administration allowed insurance companies to sell nearly worthless “junk” plans to unsuspecting consumers unaware that they may not cover prescription drugs, maternity care, or mental health.
And during the “repeal and replace” fight during my first year in the Senate, Republicans sought to gut the law and rip health insurance away from millions of people, and increase costs on millions more. But the American people organized, marched, and made their voices heard. Like every preceding Republican attempt to dismantle the law, President Trump’s failed.
But the fight continues. Trump’s Justice Department is working to overturn the ACA, refusing to fulfill its traditional responsibility to defend federal laws in court. We simply cannot let them win.
The ACA is benefitting millions of Americans, and its destruction would have a devastating impact on low-income communities, people with preexisting conditions, seniors, and people of color – especially during a pandemic. People of color are more likely to have pre-existing conditions that put them at a higher risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19. Black people are 40% more likely to have high blood pressure than their white counterparts; Latinas have a one in two risk of developing diabetes, and American Indian/Alaska Natives have a higher rate of diabetes than white people. These are not faceless columns on a spreadsheet. These are real people with families, friends, and community. There is no denying – if this administration prevails lives will be put at serious risk.
This pandemic has underscored the need for every American to have health coverage when they need it – and they need it now. As lawyers and stakeholders continue to file amicus briefs in the latest case to overturn the ACA, we must continue to expose this repeal attempt for what it really is: heartless and dangerous. The American people must once again raise their voices once and tell Donald Trump: stop playing politics with our health care.