Opinion: New York must protect the ACA

New York’s GOP members of Congress should reject Donald Trump’s promise to repeal this historic legislation if he wins the 2024 presidential race.

State Sen. Lea Webb

State Sen. Lea Webb New York State Senate Photography

The passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 was momentous, transforming our nation’s health care system, expanding access to care for millions of Americans, and significantly reducing racial disparities in insurance coverage and access to care. In my district, the uninsured rate is less than half of what it was before the ACA launched and unlocked high quality, comprehensive health plans for New Yorkers.

This year, more than 20 million people signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, thanks in large part to investments in outreach about affordable coverage to rural Americans, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people with disabilities.

And yet, Donald Trump is doubling down on his recent pledge to “terminate” the Affordable Care Act if he is elected president in 2024. 

Trump's call to end the ACA was immediately echoed by his fellow Republican presidential contenders, and met with deafening silence by New York’s Republican members of Congress. The stakes are incredibly high – given that the state of New York could very well decide which party controls Congress in 2024, it’s important for voters to know what GOP representatives, including my member of Congress, Marc Molinaro, along with Mike Lawler, Brandon Williams, and Anthony D’Esposito would do if faced with gutting the Affordable Care Act. 

Since they haven’t spoken up on the subject, we can only look at their voting records. New York Republicans have long supported ACA repeal, with more than 60 attempts to repeal or do substantial harm to the ACA. Molinaro, D’Esposito, Lawler, and Williams have voted repeatedly to gut ACA protections, cut back access to Medicaid, and raise prescription drug costs for seniors.

The ACA has helped New York’s rate of uninsured individuals reach historic lows, and I’m determined to protect that level of access for my constituents. 

Across the board, the relentless crusade to repeal the ACA comes at a time where the ACA is more popular and affordable than ever. Repeal has been rejected by the American people, repeatedly costing Republicans at the ballot box and remaining unpopular among voters of all parties

The ACA provides accessible, affordable health insurance to 40 million Americans, and 7 million New Yorkers. Repealing the ACA also means ripping away protections for the over 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, throwing young adults off their parents’ coverage, and stripping critical funding for rural hospitals. The GOP repeal scheme would also put insurance companies back in charge, allowing them to deny basic care like hospital visits and prescription drug coverage, and charge women more than men. 

Importantly, the Affordable Care Act expands prevention coverage for women's health and well-being and improves the quality of care that women receive. As the New York State Senate Chair of the Women’s Issues Committee, I am particularly grateful for the ACA’s contraceptive and counseling offerings, screenings for breast and cervical cancer, intervention services for domestic violence, and more. Repealing this legislation puts all of these services on the line for the millions of women who receive care under the Affordable Care Act.

Repealing the ACA would also hike costs and rip coverage away from hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers on Medicaid or who purchase health insurance on their own. But the damage doesn’t stop there – it will also hurt people who get insurance through their job and let insurance companies sell junk policies that don't cover you when you get sick.

These threats to the Affordable Care Act are particularly cruel considering the growing mental health crisis in New York and around the country, caused in part by barriers to care. This crisis stems from social inequities barring access to affordable mental health care, affecting teenagers of color the most. The Affordable Care Act mandates Medicaid and private insurers to cover mental health care and preventative mental health screenings at no cost. 

As Republicans in Washington are fighting for repeal, Democrats expanded on the success of the ACA with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which makes coverage more affordable for people and lowers drug costs for seniors, including a $35-a-month cap on insulin, and no-cost vaccines. Democrats are trying to go further by extending the savings to everyone. 

I’ve dedicated much of my career to protecting affordable and accessible health care for all New Yorkers, and we’ve made substantial progress. But we cannot lose sight of the mounting calls  to rip all of this away by repealing the ACA. We cannot move backwards.