My mother raised my two siblings and me in a mobile home park. I watched her struggle over 10 years to make ends meet as she worked to complete her college degree. My grandmother moved three doors down and went back to work at 60 years old to help us. At times, our family went without health insurance, and the bills piled up after my sister got sick.
Like my mom, I worked hard to pay my way through state college. Eventually, I led a workforce of 16,000 employees as head of Global Human Resources for a major Minnesota health care manufacturer, where I oversaw our employer-sponsored health plans for thousands of Minnesotans. Through these experiences, I know that if health care isn’t affordable, it isn’t accessible.
Over and over during the past several months, I have spoken with folks across the Second Congressional District who are paying tens of thousands of dollars in premiums each year and have only one choice for a health care plan. A farmer in Zumbro Falls told me he pays $24,000 a year for his plan, with a $12,000 deductible. This must stop. Republicans and Democrats need to come together to stabilize health care costs for families who have too little choice in their health care.
The GOP has spent years chipping away at the Affordable Care Act, which isn’t perfect, but we do not need to give up the successful aspects of the law, which eliminated the penalty for pre-existing conditions, allowed young adults like my four sons to remain on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old, ended lifetime limits and gave tens of millions of Americans access to health care who didn’t have it before.
We must address the lack of choice and competition in the insurance marketplace. In order to address this, I propose opening up Medicare for consumers who choose to buy into it, to compete with large insurance companies. That will give families more options and lower costs for everyone.
Let’s not ruin the progress we’ve already made by playing politics with health care. Let’s build on the improvements and stabilize the marketplace. Lives are at stake. For instance, 51 percent of non-elderly residents in the Second Congressional District have a pre-existing condition. These people cannot be in jeopardy of losing their coverage.
To stabilize the ACA, we should reauthorize a federal reinsurance program that does not shortchange other current programs and make it permanent. We must provide a long-term outlook for cost reduction subsidies and rein in out-of-control costs in the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma should compete by negotiating with Medicare and ensure that generic drugs are a vital part of the health care mix. We need more transparent medical pricing and we must start to move away from a fee-for-service system.
Let’s take a realistic approach to improving our complex health care system with someone who spent over 20 years working in health care and grew up at times without health insurance. Congressional Republicans have had control of the executive branch and Congress for the past two years and have made no progress on reducing the cost of your health care.
I will fight the special interests head-on and work to ensure all families have access to coverage they can afford. It’s time to stop playing politics with people’s lives.
Angie Craig is running for Congress in Minnesota’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Eagan with her wife and four sons.