Opinion: Virus puts health care front and center for November

Lavora Barnes

As we go through a once-in-a-generation global pandemic that is devastating our country, infecting tens of thousands and threatening the lives of Michigan residents, now more than ever Michigan working families are recognizing the importance of affordable health care. When we turn our eyes to November, it’s clear health care will be a defining issue in the upcoming election. And it’s clear President Donald Trump and the Republican Party don’t have the answers Michigan is looking for.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with supply chain distributors in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Sunday, March 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Health care was on the ballot in the 2018 midterms. Trump and congressional Republicans had broken their promise to expand affordable health care, instead choosing to try to strip it from millions of Americans, putting insurance for 720,000 Michigan residents at risk while they attacked protections for people with pre-existing conditions and attempted to slash funding for Medicaid.

What happened in response was a blue wave that swept Democrats into office in every corner of our state. Now, Trump is continuing his attacks on affordable health care with a renewed assault on the law in court. 

Right now, as Americans across the country fear a deadly virus and lawmakers urgently address a public health crisis, Trump is fighting in the Supreme Court to end the Affordable Care Act, again endangering health care for over 700,000 Michigan residents and threatening to gut protections for more than 4 million in Michigan with a pre-existing condition.

As the COVID-19 crisis takes its toll on our economy, the number of residents at risk will only grow. Last week alone 129,298 Michigan workers filed for unemployment benefits. Those newly unemployed workers are already facing instability in their health care coverage and as Trump continues his legal war on the Affordable Care Act, that instability will increase and further threaten our public health. 

Over the last two weeks as I’ve made calls and spoken with Michigan voters throughout the state, I hear concern in their voices. Concern for the health of their children or their parents, and concern for their own security. As layoffs loom while our state takes the necessary public health precautions to fight this virus, they’re worried about their health care. People with pre-existing conditions tell me they’re scared not just by the coronavirus, but also by this president working to take their health insurance away.

That’s unacceptable.

The fight against COVID-19 puts these health care concerns front and center in the upcoming election. When Michigan voters examine Trump’s record, they will find it littered with broken promises. And they’re going to find a president who, when faced with the greatest public health crisis of our generation, downplayed the threat while calling it a Democratic “hoax.” 

This November, we must hold him accountable for his failures to protect our health.

Lavora Barnes chairs the Michigan Democratic Party.