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Guaranteeing affordable health coverage for all

Senator Tammy Baldwin's own experience with pre-existing conditions fuels her desire to end healthcare discrimination

For those that don’t know, I was raised by my grandparents. They began caring for me when I was two months old.

When I was nine, I was diagnosed with a serious childhood illness similar to spinal meningitis. I spent three months in the hospital. My grandparents had health insurance, but they weren’t allowed to list me as a dependent and their insurance wouldn’t cover my care. They were forced to make great sacrifices to pay for my health care.

I got better, but when my grandparents looked for an insurance policy that would cover me they discovered that, because of my previous illness, they couldn’t find such a policy. Not from any insurer. Not at any price. I was branded with the words “pre-existing condition.”

Millions of families have a loved one with a pre-existing condition and I want to make sure that no parent, foster parent or grandparent has to choose between helping their child get better or going bankrupt.

One of the ways I’m working to provide this critical security to families and patients is through my Fair Care Act that I recently introduced. My Fair Care Act would prevent greater access to short-term, junk plans, while safeguarding current protections for those with pre-existing conditions and helping prevent further premium increases and unstable insurance markets.

Blocking watered-down coverage

The legislation would block the Trump Administration’s proposed rule that would allow insurance companies to sell short-term, junk plans, and it would once again guarantee protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The Urban Institute recently found that the steps that President Trump and Congressional Republicans have taken to date to sabotage the health care system, and allowing insurance companies to sell junk policies, would increase premiums and lead to more uninsured Americans.

In my home state of Wisconsin, premiums would go up by an average of 20 percent in 2019, and 130,000 more Wisconsinites would lack comprehensive health coverage in 2019 because they would either become uninsured or would be enrolled in junk plans that don’t provide key health benefits.

My Fair Care Act is an opportunity for lawmakers to keep their word and guarantee protections for pre-existing conditions, but we must do more to ensure more Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.

Improving affordability, access to essential services

That’s why I introduced another reform that provides a better deal for young Americans by improving health coverage affordability while maintaining protections and access to essential services.

My Advancing Youth Enrollment Act ensures that more than four million uninsured young adults could be eligible to receive additional financial support to help reduce their monthly premiums. Making health care more affordable for younger adults can help ensure that they sign up for coverage, which will help further stabilize the marketplace and lower costs for all.

We must take action to help stabilize the health insurance marketplace and bring down premiums, and a critical way to accomplish that goal is to increase tax credits for young and healthy individuals in order to encourage them to sign up for coverage in the Marketplace.

Across the country, premiums keep rising as a result of repeated attempts to sabotage our health care system. Instead of re-hashing old, partisan battles, we need to work together to make it easier for people to find quality, affordable health care coverage.

Extending tax credits for young adults

The Advancing Youth Enrollment Act would increase the value of premium tax credits for young adults ages 18 to 35 years old, which would result in more financial support to help them afford quality health coverage. Importantly, this protects older adults and those with pre-existing conditions from facing higher costs or seeing their current tax credits reduced.

Despite significant coverage gains, nearly 7.8 million 19- to 34-year-olds remain uninsured, including more than 4 million who are eligible for premium tax credits. Due to the Trump Administration sabotage that has caused premium increases and strained the health of the risk pools, we must incentivize young adults to enroll and to increase their access to affordable options.

Stabilizing the health insurance market

I’ve also made a point to support bipartisan solutions that strengthen and stabilize the health insurance market and improve access to health care. That’s why I cosponsored the bipartisan Murray-Alexander health care stabilization legislation and led the effort in the Senate to restore investments in enrollment outreach and in-person assistance. In-person assistance is especially critical to ensuring younger adults sign up for health care, which further helps stabilize the market and lower costs.

The people of Wisconsin did not send me to Washington to take people’s health care away; they want us to work together to make things better, not worse.

So, I’m going to keep working to protect and expand coverage, and make health care more affordable. I’m eager to pass these critical reforms that will do right by American families.

Let’s get this done.

Senator Tammy Baldwin is Wisconsin’s first woman to serve in the Senate and the first openly gay member elected to the Senate.  Throughout her 25-year career in public service she has worked to provide access to quality, affordable healthcare to all Americans. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tammy helped craft the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, leading the effort to include the provision that now allows young people to remain on their parents’ insurance plans up to age 26.

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