Since taking office in January, I’ve made it my top priority to listen to people from every corner of my district. No matter where I go, my constituents tell me that health care is one of their most pressing concerns. I can often see the anxiety etched on their faces.
As I can attest from personal experience, we never feel more vulnerable than when we, or someone we love dearly, receives a troubling diagnosis. Everything else in life fades into the background. For too many Central Floridians faced with such a diagnosis, their stress is often compounded by the cost of their inevitable medical care.
As a mother, my heart aches over the many stories I’ve heard from parents who struggle to balance their children’s medical costs with putting food on the table. As someone whose family owns a small business, I know the tough decisions business owners face every day as a result of rising health-care costs and how it stunts business growth. I see and feel their pain, which is why I am so frustrated that something as deeply personal as access to health care is used to score partisan political points in Washington.
My philosophy is simple: Every American should have access to high-quality, affordable health care. The question is: What is the best way to make this goal a reality?
As a congresswoman, I have been working with both parties, with families and businesses alike, to improve the health-care system we have and build on the progress we’ve made. The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, but no law is perfect out the gate. In fact, Social Security — a highly successful and popular government program — has been amended numerous times since 1935 and continues to keep millions of seniors out of poverty.
I understand families are struggling with rising premiums and access to plans and doctors; I’ve heard it at my listening sessions and town halls. I know small-business owners are concerned about their ability to insure their employees while growing their businesses and hiring new workers; I’ve heard these concerns during my roundtables and constituent coffee events.
But it’s also clear that reversing the progress we’ve made will hurt every working American. Everywhere I go, people here in Central Florida agree that we need to fix the current law, not start all over again.
After I heard from young people at college campuses across my district, my first act in Congress was to fight to protect Americans’ right to stay on their family’s health-insurance plan until age 26.
I firmly believe that Congress can and must work together to fix the law’s problems, while preserving its many beneficial parts. Instead, too many of my colleagues are focused on partisan ideology rather than helping our communities grapple with rising health-care costs.
The Republicans’ plan, called the American Health Care Act, or AHCA, is politically motivated and simply a bad deal for Central Floridians. Virtually all patient advocacy organizations, physicians, hospitals, and independent health-care experts opposed this plan, including the AARP. The Republican plan would leave up to 23 million more Americans without coverage, forcing them back into emergency rooms, where taxpayers end up footing the bill. It would also force older Americans to pay more for their coverage and put people with pre-existing conditions at risk.
Last month, I voted against AHCA in the House because it offended my conscience and would hurt my constituents. It is my hope that the Senate can put the partisan politics aside and acknowledge this bill for what it is: a bad deal for the American people. It’s time for us to come together — both Democrats and Republicans — to implement fixes to the health-care system that help working families, small businesses and every American in need of care.
Mend it; don’t end it.
Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy is a Democrat who represents Florida’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
To read the op-ed on the Orlando Sentinel website, click here.