Over the course of a normal week, my office receives thousands of letters, emails, phone calls, and tweets from Northern Virginians. Each message is important to me, but recently one really caught my attention. It came from Liz Salter, a 29-year-old woman from Northern Virginia. Liz suffers from a rare genetic condition, Fabry Disease. Fabry Disease can cause intense pain throughout the body, kidney failure, and heart disease.
Every two weeks, Liz receives an enzyme replacement therapy to prevent her disease from progressing. Each treatment costs more than $16,000, for a total of $400,000 per year. Before the Affordable Care Act, someone like Liz had to worry that her insurance company would impose arbitrary annual or lifetime limits on care, consigning her to bankruptcy or worse. Before the Affordable Care Act, someone like Liz had to worry that if she ever lost her job or chose to find a new job, she could be denied coverage due to her pre-existing condition. For Liz Salter, the Affordable Care Act means peace of mind.
“When the ACA passed and included the ban on annual and lifetime limits, it was such a relief because, at 29, I could easily reach these limits. Not being able to get these treatments could have a lifelong effect on my health,” she told me. “I also was relieved that if I ever lost my job and needed to purchase insurance, I wouldn’t have to worry about being denied due to a pre-existing condition, as most insurance wouldn't want to cover me.”
For Liz Salter and so many of our friends and neighbors, the Affordable Care Act means peace of mind when it comes to health care. Could we improve it to expand benefits to more Americans and continue to bring down the cost curve? Of course we could.
But that’s not what the Republican Majority in Congress is about to do. What they plan to do is repeal it before even introducing a plan to replace it. This reckless approach would raise the deficit, hurt Medicare, bring chaos to the health care market, and put the health insurance of millions of American families in jeopardy.
Here in Virginia, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 327,000 individuals have gained access to health care, the uninsured rate has dropped by nearly one-third, and annual and lifetime limits have been eliminated for 2,974,000 people, including Liz Salter. Children can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26 and more than 114,138 seniors have saved an average of $1,015 on prescription drug costs. Make no mistake, all of that is at risk if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act.
It may have made good politics to demagogue the Affordable Care Act, but stories like Liz’s are common throughout Northern Virginia and they demonstrate that our health care system is far better today than it was before we acted. I support improvements to the law including expanding Medicaid in states like Virginia, creating even more choices for consumers, and continuing to drive down the cost of care. But just repealing the law is no plan at all; it will just make America sick again.