Column: Obamacare has been good for Michigan

Debbie Dingell and Sander Levin

President Donald Trump claimed in a recent news conference that the Affordable Care Act was “a complete disaster.” But after a hard look at the facts – data and statistics – and hearing from individuals from our state, the ACA is indeed working for Michiganians and is beneficial for our state.

Since the landmark law was passed in 2010, the number of uninsured individuals in our state, folks who didn’t have access to health insurance coverage, has been cut in half, from 12.4 percent to 6.1 percent. Nationwide – we now have the lowest level ever of individuals without access to health insurance coverage.

The ACA benefits all Michiganians, regardless of whether you get coverage through your employer or buy a plan through the Marketplace. More than 4.5 million people in Michigan have access to free preventive care services, like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to individuals for pre-existing conditions, or charge women more for the same care. Medicare, which provides health coverage for seniors, has seen its solvency extended. And Medicaid, which provides health coverage for low-income individuals, has been expanded, bringing economic benefits to our states.

While more work is needed to further protect Michiganians from rising premiums, these costs would be much higher without the subsidies provided by the ACA. Repealing those subsidies, as well as provisions that lower out-of-pocket medical expenses, would only make health-care coverage more expensive.

Michiganians from all walks of lives have been able to make changes in their lives and have more economic opportunities because their access to health insurance doesn’t have to be tied to their job. One Huntington Woods woman we heard from, Lauren Lisi, told us that because the ACA provided opportunities to purchase insurance separate from employer-based coverage, her husband was able to leave a job he was not happy at and start his own business with less worry from her about losing access to health insurance for their family. And as Lauren writes, “What’s more American than that?”

Prior to enactment of the ACA, Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund was on shaky footing. These are the funds which pay for Medicare beneficiaries during hospital stays. Provisions included in the ACA extended the solvency of the trust fund by 11 years, to 2028. The ACA also lowered Medicare Part B premiums for individuals, ensuring that they have more money to spend in our state’s economy.

The ACA has also helped lower costs of prescription drugs for seniors in Michigan. Because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 212,000 seniors saved an average of $1,176 in 2015.

The ACA has made a life-changing difference for people who did not have access to insurance before. A local clergyman, Bishop Walter Starghill, gained coverage for the first time through Medicaid expansion. “The impact on black men with increased access to insurance coverage is big,” he told us. “We didn’t take care of ourselves till it was too late and then had to go to the ER and some of us died. Now we can get checked out early.”

Michigan, like 30 other states and the District of Columbia decided to take additional federal funds to expand Medicaid, which provides health insurance for low-income individuals. We applaud Michigan legislators for approving the Medicaid expansion program, Healthy Michigan, which has covered more than 625,000 Michiganians like Bishop Starghill.

But the Medicaid expansion – and the ACA – hasn’t just made coverage more accessible. It’s been beneficial to our state’s economy.

Researchers at the University of Michigan recently released a report which found that Michigan’s Medicaid expansion has created 30,000 jobs and generated $2.3 billion in economic benefits for our state. Any repeal of the ACA could result in a loss of those jobs and economic benefits.

Republicans are proposing to repeal the ACA, causing disruption to a large portion of our nation’s economy, without a plan in place to protect millions of Americans and Michiganians who have seen the benefits of the ACA. We stand united with fellow Democrats, and we will fight to protect this landmark law which has provided health benefits to so many.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, represents Michigan’s 12th District and is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care. U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, represents Michigan’s 9th District and is Ranking Member on the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.