Today marks the U.S. Conference of Mayors Day of Action on Healthcare. It is on this day that I join hundreds of other mayors across the country and urge Congress to consider the effect that the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will have on our nation's cities.
I am privileged to serve as mayor of our great city and I feel a sense of responsibility for the health and well-being of our community, which includes ensuring residents have access to comprehensive and affordable health care. Millions of Americans, including hundreds in Newport News, have gained insurance under the ACA, and the law has been instrumental in bringing about insurance reforms from which we all benefit. It is imperative that we preserve this progress.
Since the law's passage in 2010, more than 20 million Americans have gained health care coverage, bringing the nation's uninsured rate to the lowest levels in history and slowing the rapid rise in health care costs. With these important benefits in mind, it is essential that policymakers not simply discard the ACA without careful consideration of the effect. To start with, repealing the ACA would create a $200 million shortfall for state government and likely result in dozens of lost jobs at local health departments throughout the commonwealth. Perhaps even more critically, the law's repeal would deny desperately needed access to individuals and families, place an undue burden on our local hospitals and rescind safeguards for patients suffering from chronic and terminal illnesses.
Moreover, there are important provisions of the ACA that have widespread bipartisan support that are working well and should be retained including:
•Insuring dependent children up to the age of 26;
•Eliminating lifetime and annual coverage limits on essential health benefits;
•Assuring eligibility for insurance coverage even with pre-existing conditions;
•Guaranteeing coverage for pregnancy and breast cancer screenings; and
•Providing coverage for preventive services at no additional cost.
Furthermore, I support provisions in the ACA that have increased mental health and substance use disorder benefits, requiring plans to cover them at parity with medical and surgical benefits. I also oppose the proposed efforts to convert Medicaid to block grants that would, over time, likely result in a gradual decline in funding.
Repealing the ACA will disproportionately hurt the poor, minorities, people with disabilities and those struggling with mental health issues and addiction. The effects of repeal will also be felt most heavily at the local level. Newport News will experience an increase in indigent care costs for our hospitals, in uninsured rates and uncompensated care costs; and it is our low- and moderate-income residents who will return to a time of having to choose between health care and everyday living expenses such as groceries.
As mayor of the city of Newport News, I feel compelled to join the U.S. Conference of Mayors bipartisan appeal and do what is within my power to support the Healthcare Day of Action. I urge our elected officials in Washington, D.C., to build upon, not tear down, the progress that has been made to our health care system and to ensure that none of the 20 million newly covered individuals is left without health care coverage. I also encourage all those who share my concerns to contact your congressional representatives and let your voice be heard.
McKinley L. Price is mayor of Newport News.