Congressional delegation likes ACA, less supportive of universal health care

DOVER — Delaware’s congressional delegation is lukewarm on universal health care, although its senators and representative — all Democrats — are very supportive of the Affordable Care Act.

Universal health care has surged into the national consciousness over the past two years, in part due to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency and Republican attempts to replace the Affordable Care Act.

One of the core tenets of Sen. Sanders’ campaign in 2015 and 2016 was universal health care, and while he was unsuccessful in his bid for the Democratic nomination, the party picked up some of his ideas: The official Democratic Party platform insists health care is a “fundamental right for every American.”

Universal health care is defined by the World Health Organization as offering to individuals “the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.” It is often described in the United States as Medicare for all.

Universal health care is offered by most of the world’s industrialized powers aside from the United States.

In the seven months since Donald Trump has been president of the United States, health care has received tremendous attention from the media, politicians and the general public due to efforts to repeal the ACA, which is also known as “Obamacare” after former President Barack Obama.

Republican plans to replace the ACA have faltered, with the GOP-backed American Health Care Act stuck — for now — in the Senate. The bill would reduce spending by a net of about $119 billion over the next 10 years but would also cause 23 million people — many forced to buy health insurance under terms of the ACA law — to no longer be insured, according to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation.

Delaware’s congressional delegation has opposed the Republican proposal and defended the ACA.

According to the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Delaware’s uninsured rate was 11.2 percent in 2009 and 5.9 percent in 2015, and officials credit the ACA and its purchase requirements for driving down the rate.

While Republicans have been making their case for repealing the ACA, some Democrats have been pushing for universal health care. The Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, introduced in the House of Representatives, would broaden Medicare “to provide all individuals residing in the United States and U.S. territories with free health care that includes all medically necessary care.”

Delaware’s lone member in the House, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, is not a cosponsor on the proposal.

“I support creating a path forward that gives all Americans access to quality, affordable health care,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said in a statement. “The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, and that’s why I also support legislation that would provide people with the opportunity to buy into Medicare as they reach retirement age, as well as the public option in an effort to expand reliable health care options.

“My focus right now is fighting to stabilize the individual market as well as ensuring the ACA stays intact so tens of thousands of Americans aren’t ripped off of their health care plans.”

The public option, discussed during the debate over the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010, would have created a government insurance plan that would have competed with insurance companies. It is distinct from single-payer, where all health care is offered by one entity. Canada, for instance, uses a single-payer system.

Both of Delaware’s senators said they consider health care a human right.

“I believe access to health care for all Americans is a right,” Sen. Tom Carper said. “One of the ways we can give everyone access is through the health insurance exchanges, which have been proven to work.

“We must now work together to stabilize the exchanges in all 50 states so that health insurers will reenter these markets, create a competitive environment that will drive down premiums, co-pays and deductibles so that health insurance is truly affordable for all.

“As a former governor, I know that states can be great laboratories for ideas that can later be expanded to other parts of the country. Massachusetts was a great laboratory for the exchanges. If states are interested in exploring single-payer systems, we should test them out there first.”

Delaware’s other senator was more reserved on the subject.

“Every single American deserves quality, affordable health care,” Sen. Chris Coons said in a statement. “Since being elected to the Senate, I’ve remained committed to working with Republicans and Democrats alike to improve the Affordable Care Act so that everyone has access to affordable health care, but there’s more work to do.

“We must continue working to lower premiums, stabilize the market and help small and medium sized businesses provide their employees with quality care. Right now, I think the most realistic way to improve our health care system is to build upon and improve the Affordable Care Act so that every American gets the care they deserve.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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