Virginia Organizing recognizing ACA’s 10th anniversary amid coronavirus pandemic
As Virginia Organizing, a non-partisan statewide grassroots organization, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, our Chapter members are also celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on March 23. Each Chapter was busy recently making plans for local gatherings to commemorate the date. The Shenandoah Valley Chapters were planning a community potluck. But with the emerging Covid-19 global pandemic that has us all concerned for each other’s health and well-being, our party will now be “virtual.” Members will celebrate from home as we recognize and show appreciation for the key accomplishments of the ACA.
Affordable, accessible health care has been a top priority for us since 2008. Directly affected members worked hard for reforms that would make a real difference in people’s lives. For years, people across the state participated in meetings with their legislators, held rallies and vigils, and wrote letters and made calls to share their stories. Community hospitals in rural Southwest Virginia were closing. Family members with pre-existing conditions were scared of losing their insurance or exhausting lifetime limits. Young adults transitioning from school to career feared a critical gap in coverage. Those who are single and childless in Virginia were not eligible for Medicaid. We were well aware of the real human costs and barriers people faced and wanted to have our voices heard.
The benefits we have seen in Virginia since the passing of the Affordable Care Act are remarkable. More people can access quality health insurance plans with affordable premiums. Children can remain on their parents’ plans up to age 26. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions is prohibited. The ACA also made it possible for Virginia to expand Medicaid in 2018, with more than 382,000 people gaining coverage as a result. More people are finally able to access preventative care and fill prescriptions with less worry and less fear that an unexpected bill could wipe them out financially.
The ACA also created the path to strengthen and expand protections through Section 1557’s nondiscrimination provision. Implemented in 2016, this provision works to reduce discrimination and disparities in health care for LGBTQ patients and racial and ethnic minorities. It also ensures language access for limited English proficiency and deaf and hard of hearing patients. But even this enforcement was at risk last year with proposed rule changes.
We are ever mindful that, even with these important, hard-fought reforms, health care access remains under threat. The current federal administration has made frequent attempts to undermine critical gains and cut essential services that add to the health safety net for those most vulnerable. Our communities are stronger and more resilient when everyone has access to health care.
We are now seeing the real ramifications as we are all feeling uncertain and looking to our leaders for guidance to get us through this Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. As Virginia and the nation fights the largest-scale public health crisis we have seen in our lifetime, attacks on the ACA are more dangerous than ever. On the tenth anniversary of the ACA, we should be celebrating its accomplishments and figuring out how to build on our success by expanding and improving healthcare for millions more who still struggle with affordability, access, and services. The ACA is a critical tool in combating disease, whether in a pandemic or in usual times. Ending the ACA could confront low and middle-income Americans with a double whammy: loss of coverage and services while they are at the same time facing economic fallout from the epidemic.
The Trump-backed lawsuit that could overturn the ACA in the Supreme Court this fall only adds more anxiety to millions of families already worried about their health and economic security at the very moment our elected leaders should be providing greater reassurance. Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate by political party or geography. How can you make a difference? Contact your U.S. Senators and your Congressperson. Tell them that legislators trying to repeal the ACA should drop their lawsuit as part of their public health response to this pandemic. Protect our health care! Our lives may depend on it.
Article by Ronna Wertman. Wertman is a community leader in the Staunton/Augusta County/Waynesboro Chapter of Virginia Organizing, a non-partisan non-profit organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. To learn more about Virginia Organizing or to get involved, visit https://virginia-organizing.org/ or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.