Health care is a right, not a privilege.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a watershed moment in our nation’s health. For the first time, insurers could no longer deny coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions or charge women more than men for the same care. Young people could stay on their parents’ plan until age 26. Lifetime caps were banned. Mental health, prescription drugs, and preventative care became required benefits.
As Governor, I was proud to bring lawmakers together from both sides of the aisle to expand Medicaid to 400,000 Coloradans. We also established our state exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, which allows individuals to compare plans for quality and affordability. It has been described as one of the most innovative exchanges in the country. In the process, we cut our state’s uninsured rate by nearly two-thirds.
Unfortunately, even with all of this progress, Americans are still getting ripped off by the high cost of health care. President Trump and Senator Gardner have made things worse. Senator Gardner has repeatedly voted to repeal the ACA, and he even supports a lawsuit at the Supreme Court that could end coverage for people with preexisting conditions — including nearly 2.4 million Coloradans. The Trump/Gardner agenda on health care has been to protect the profits of insurance companies and the medical industry while the rest of us pay more. For too many Americans, the rising cost of care is a very real matter of life or death.
We must build on the success of the ACA by creating a public option that will lower health care costs and boost competition. Too many Americans remain uninsured or underinsured, all because insurance coverage is simply too expensive.
We must tackle the staggeringly high cost of prescription drugs by requiring drug companies to be more transparent about drug pricing, allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prices, and ending the prohibition of the importation of safe drugs from Canada and Mexico. As a small businessman, I find it outrageous that Medicare is legally barred from negotiating the prices of prescription drugs, even though the VA and other countries around the world do exactly that.
We should also scale up Colorado’s best practices to curb the opioid epidemic by expanding naloxone access, researching alternative pain management therapies, and updating prescribing guidelines to reinvigorate federal efforts to address this crisis. And, in all sectors of our health-care system, we must accelerate our investment in innovation and cutting-edge research.
A healthier Colorado is possible, and the ACA provides a strong foundation upon which to build. But we have a long way to go before health care is equitable and accessible for all. I intend to fight for that future.