Texas can’t afford ACA attacks

Photo by Stephen Spillman

When it comes to the ongoing debate over health care policy, it’s time to put politics aside.

For Texans with pre-existing conditions and chronic illnesses, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a life saver. It’s given us the ability to stay healthy, provide for our families and give back to our communities. Over the last year, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have doubled down on their partisan efforts to undermine and even repeal the ACA for Texans and Americans across the country, putting millions at risk for higher costs and loss of coverage.

When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, the doctors told me I only had three years to live. But I’m still here. I’ve raised two children, now 29 and 30 years old. Thanks to the ACA, I was able to get healthcare, despite my pre-existing health conditions, and to stay alive and healthy enough to take care of my family.

Not only have I had more time with my family, I’ve been able to advance in my career. I now work full time to make sure that other black women of color have access to the care they need. In the course of this work, I’ve seen first-hand how many women, especially black women, the ACA helps – and how many Texans would lose health care due to pre-existing conditions without the ACA’s protections.

The recent announcement of a new vacancy on the Supreme Court creates even more danger for the clients of The Afiya Center, my community and other women like me. President Donald Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, will further undermine the ACA. He believes that a president can disregard any law he disagrees with or decides is unconstitutional, even if the courts have ruled the opposite.

This opens up the way for the ACA, which has already been upheld multiple times by the Supreme Court, to be overturned based on the judges’ own views rather than long-standing legal precedents.

The confirmation of an anti-ACA justice on the Supreme Court could take us back to the days when insurance companies ran the could deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Black women and other women of color will be among the hardest hit if President Trump and his conservative court succeed in stripping away the protections built into the ACA.

And that’s just the beginning. An extremist Supreme Court could take away women’s basic reproductive rights, including the right to abortion, so that women would no longer have the ability to decide if and when they will have children without facing potential criminal penalties. They could lose their bodily autonomy.

Living in Texas, I’ve seen first hand how women’s health is hurt when we don’t have freedom over our bodies. Texas women, especially black women and other women of color, already face significant barriers when they try to access reproductive health care. It’s no coincidence that Texas’ maternal mortality rates are the highest in the developed world.

Now more than ever, women and families need the ACA. We have to stand up against the Trump administration’s attempts to take away health care for Texans.

New polls show that Texans overwhelmingly want more health care – not less. We want lower health care costs and prescription drug prices and increased access to mental health care. Sabotaging the ACA will only take us farther from those goals and from our values.

Nationally, 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could face discrimination from insurance companies if the ACA’s protections are repealed. These companies could charge us sky-high rates – or deny us coverage altogether. People like me could lose our homes, our savings, or even worse: our lives.

But instead of standing up for Texans, President Trump’s Department of Justice is refusing to defend the ACA against a legal challenge that would eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Instead of enforcing our existing laws, Trump is trying to stack the Supreme Court to advance his own anti-woman agenda.

Texas can’t afford to stay on the sidelines while politicians rig our highest courts and try to take away our health care and basic human rights.

The 2018 midterms are right around the corner. It’s time for every elected lawmaker in Texas to choose a side: Will they stand with women and families or will they stand with in the way of our health and freedom? It’s an easy decision really. Choose families. Choose life.

The Afiya Center has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Deneen Robinson

Program director, The Afiya Center