Stahl Hamilton: Arizonans depend on the Affordable Care Act; we must protect it from repeal

Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton is a Tucson Democrat who serves LD 21 in the Arizona Legislature.

Fourteen years after the passage of the
Affordable Care Act (ACA), Republicans can’t quit their attempts to repeal it.
It may feel like déjà vu, but as more Arizonans are relying on the ACA than
ever before, Donald Trump and his allies are renewing calls to repeal the law
and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. 

Since he first
reignited his promise to “terminate” the ACA in November, Trump has repeated
his public attacks at least seven times. As we approach the
election, we must take these threats seriously — the stakes for American
health care could not be higher.

Ripping health care away from Americans who rely
on it by dismantling the ACA has always been a top priority for Trump and MAGA
Republicans. During his first term, Trump weakened and undermined the ACA, made it
harder to enroll in affordable coverage, and raised costs for millions of
people, leading to lower enrollment and worse protections for those with
pre-existing conditions. Millions of people became under-insured or uninsured
and were left with staggering health care bills.

When President Joe Biden took office, he made
reversing this sabotage and strengthening the ACA a top priority. To reverse
the damage done by Trump, Biden invested heavily in education and
outreach, making it easier for people to enroll. His administration fixed the
“family glitch” and championed other initiatives to make coverage more
affordable. In addition, the administration built on the ACA by passing and
implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, helping millions of families find a
plan for under $10 a month, lowering prescription costs even
more, and providing free vaccines to seniors.

As a result of the hard work to improve access
and quality to health care in our country, the ACA is more popular than ever with a record 21.4 million people signing up for 2024
Marketplace coverage, including 348,055 Arizonans. Between Marketplace coverage
and Medicaid expansion, over 45 million Americans rely on the ACA for their
health coverage. 

It’s not just about affordable coverage: the ACA touches
nearly every household in the country. For example, the ACA ensures more than
1.1 million Arizonans with pre-existing conditions are protected from insurance
company abuses, lowers prescription drug costs for Arizona seniors, and gives
coverage to 654,000 Arizonans through Medicaid expansion.

Some commentators have been quick to dismiss
Trump’s latest comments as nothing but an empty threat. This is a mistake. In
2017, Trump was just one vote short of total ACA repeal. It’s no stretch of the
imagination to assume he will pick back up where he left off with his assault
on health care if elected to a second term now that the Republican party has
only grown more extreme and continues to fall in line behind Trump. The latest
GOP budget aims to gut Medicaid and the ACA, which over 100 million Americans rely on for their health
care.

Not only will they gut the ACA through
legislation, but they will continue to try to gut health care in the courts as
well. Several lawsuits are underway that could dismantle the ACA’s requirement
that insurers cover lifesaving preventive care and rip away Medicare’s power
from negotiating lower drug prices. The Biden administration is currently
defending patients’ rights in court but a Trump administration could decide to
not defend against these legal attacks.

Here’s the reality: we cannot dismiss Donald Trump’s
promise to destroy the ACA as an empty threat. His record on health care speaks
for itself – he will do everything in his power to repeal the ACA and raise
costs for millions. On the other hand, President Biden has not only talked the
talk but walked the walk. He has lowered prescription drug and insurance costs,
helped millions gain coverage, and taken on big drug companies.

As Maya Angelou said, when someone shows you who
they are, believe them the first time.