It has become increasingly difficult over the last few years to watch and listen to some of our elected officials and observe their policy positions, political activities and behavior. This decade will prove critical for the future of our country and our state as we decide whether to remain the global economic leader we’ve been for nearly a century or whether we’ll abandon the better angels of our nature. While it can be argued that the majority of the elected exhibit, to varying degrees, great support of and passion for our democracy, the landscape has changed and offering best wishes and thanks to those working on our behalf is dissipating.
That said, we do have reason to bank on hope and also recognize that there are those elected to office who are working in a constructive and positive manner to a large extent behind the scenes.
There is no better example of hard work yielding results than the benefits now available to Arizonans as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment period begins. The ACA passed Congress a decade ago, providing protections for people with pre-existing conditions, closing a “donut hole” in Medicare Part D that made prescription drugs unaffordable for seniors, and expanded Medicaid coverage to nearly half a million Arizonans.
Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to any doubters that every one of us needs access to quality affordable health care coverage. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan passed by Arizona’s two United States senators, Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March of this year, health care coverage is now more affordable than ever before.
The American Rescue Plan expanded eligibility for subsidies to all Arizona households, meaning that no Arizonan will be forced to spend more than 8.5 percent of their annual income on health premiums with ACA plans. This also allows Arizona households making up to 150 percent of the federal poverty line not being crushed by premiums. For an Arizona family of four, there will be coverage for all households with $39,000 or less in annual income. This is already in addition to Arizona households of all shapes and sizes realizing monthly premium savings.
ACA subsidies are also assisting small business owners address one of their biggest challenges – the cost of providing quality health insurance benefitting their hardworking employees. Simply put, the ACA is working for Arizonans.
By way of example, Senator Kelly’s continued leadership on behalf of Arizonans has been essential. And as a leader on key health care priorities in the Senate, he is making sure that everyone has access to affordable coverage – from veterans and their families during the vaccine rollout to Arizonans receiving care at community health centers benefiting from federal aid.
The Affordable Care Act, the signature piece of legislation of President Obama’s Administration, was purposefully sabotaged throughout the Trump Administration, but we now have elected officials in office who are dedicated to decreasing costs. It is important to note that the health care arena (including physicians, nurses, hospitals, outpatient facilities, community health centers, the medical device sector, insurance sector, pharmaceutical sector, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ health, etc.) represents one-sixth of our entire economy.
Members of the United State Senate have an assortment of issues with which to deal and each senator must choose from among many competing issues. Kudos to our two senators for voting to assure passage of the American Rescue Plan and a special thanks to Senator Kelly for his leadership on key health care priorities. What a contrast to some of the “entertaining” conduct of some of the others in Congress.
Reginald “Reg” M. Ballantyne III is former chairman of the American Hospital Association and commissioner of The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.