One of the great success stories of the past two decades has been the increase in the number of children, statewide and nationally, who have health care coverage. Just a few weeks ago, we learned that North Carolina has hit an all-time high of 96 percent of children insured.
Now Congress is considering a hasty, ill-conceived plan that would take our country on a U-turn. According to a new report from the Urban Institute, four million children nationwide would lose health insurance if congressional leaders succeed in rushing forward with their risky plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without simultaneously replacing it.
Here in North Carolina, an estimated one million people would lose coverage, including many children, families, disabled individuals, and people with pre-existing conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Keeping our children healthy is key to many of our state’s goals. Asthma, diabetes, and even tooth decay can affect children’s ability to learn and keep them home from school, leaving them to fall behind academically. Sick children can also keep parents home from work, affecting their financial security and productivity. Healthy communities are prosperous communities, vital to North Carolina’s overall economic success.
Repeal of the ACA would also create chaos in our state’s health care system and wreak havoc on our state budget, according to the Urban Institute report. Over a 10-year period, North Carolina would lose $20 billion in federal funding to support the health of its residents. Governor-elect Cooper and the legislature already have their work cut out for them, and the health care needs of North Carolina children and families will only increase when many lose their insurance coverage.
Yet Congressional leaders tell us and our state legislators not to worry. They ask us to trust them in developing a replacement when they have been unable to agree on any such plan in the past six years. Already, there is significant division among Congressional factions about the strategy and timeline for replacing the ACA.
The stakes are too high for us to hope this time will be different. A repeal would simply pass the buck and leave over a million North Carolinians without health insurance.
If Congress moves forward with repealing the ACA, which we think is unwise given the multitude of benefits for children and families, it must also approve a replacement plan that protects the gains our state and country has made in providing children with access to high-quality health care. Voting to repeal the ACA without an adequate replacement plan attached is not responsible governing; it’s a risky step that threatens the health of children and families.
Our elected leaders in Washington, D.C. should show responsibility and forethought by not rushing forward to repeal the Affordable Care Act before they have done the hard work to negotiate and approve a replacement plan simultaneously. They owe all North Carolinians that much, especially those that stand to lose potentially life-saving health insurance coverage.
Michelle Hughes is the executive director of NC Child: The Voice for North Carolina’s Children