THE BLOG

Let's Move On and Implement Health Care Reform

05/15/2013 04:34 pm ET | Updated Jul 15, 2013

For many Latino families in my district, there is no more important issue than access to quality, affordable health care. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 30 percent of Latinos lack health insurance. This is the highest uninsured rate of any racial and ethnic group in the United States. Too many hardworking families are one hospital visit away from bankruptcy. This is why the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is so critical for working Latino families. It is also why Congress needs to focus on implementation of the ACA, not its elimination.

No family should have to choose between putting food on the table and visiting a doctor. No worker should ignore treatable ailments until they are forced to the emergency room. This costs individuals and families too much and places a significant burden on our healthcare system.

Latinos are also more likely to die from complications of diabetes, from certain cancers, from AIDS and from work-related injuries. Although many causes affect my community's health -- such as access to nutritional foods, health education, language barriers and safe housing -- affordability and access to quality care remain critically important.

The ACA directly tackles these issues. Most importantly, the ACA expands access to more than ten million Latinos through the expansion of Medicaid, tax credits available through the health insurance marketplaces, and the ACA provision preventing insurance companies from discriminating against individuals with preexisting conditions. It also ensures Latinos have access to free preventative services, which saves lives and billions of dollars by protecting against illness before it requires more costly treatment.

While I understand that the ACA may not be a perfect bill and more needs to be done to lower health insurance costs, it genuinely begins addressing the problem of equal access in our society. Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius called the ACA "the most important legislation to reduce health disparities since Medicare."

Unfortunately, some here in Washington are more focused on playing politics and wasting time than ensuring families have access to quality, affordable health care. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle are once again voting to repeal a law that has been upheld as the law of the land by the United States Supreme Court and endorsed by voters this past election. This week's vote marks their 37th attempt to repeal the ACA. The Republican approach neglects the critical issues at hand by refusing to focus on what is important right now, which is implementation of this vital law that saves lives and reduces costs.

Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released the Growth and Opportunity Project Report and expressed support for immigration reform. The GOP announced it would spend $10 million expanding outreach to Latino voters. But how can Republicans say they are genuinely interested in addressing the needs of the Latino community when they seek to repeal a law that would greatly benefit ten million Latinos?

As we have seen with the House Republican budget that guts the American Dream, recent arguments against comprehensive immigration reform, and the 37 votes to deny health care to millions of people, these words coming out of the Republican Party are empty and without meaning.

I invite my Republican colleagues to talk to Latino voters in a meaningful way. Put forward a real proposal to address the health care disparities that affect our children, communities, and wallets. Latino citizens of our nation care as deeply about their families' health and access to quality, affordable health care as anyone else.

The ACA is the law of land, and it provides that access. We should have a debate on how to improve and best implement the law. That is what we were elected to do. Let's move on from these 37 politicized votes to repeal this law that works for Latino families.