Before House Republicans vote next week to repeal our historic health care reform legislation, they should think about Leah Eve McCollister.
The five-year-old from Castro Valley, California, was born with a condition called neutropenia, which makes her very vulnerable to serious infections. When she was born, Leah wasn't covered under her mother's health plan - and when her family tried to get coverage, insurance companies repeatedly refused to cover Leah because of her preexisting condition. So the McCollisters, like so many families across America, racked up thousands of dollars in emergency room bills.
That all changed when health care reform legislation passed last year. The law bans insurance companies from denying coverage to a child because of a preexisting condition. In September, the McCollisters finally received a letter from an insurance company agreeing to cover Leah.
If Republicans succeed in repealing health care reform, Leah and her family won't be the only ones to lose.
If the law is repealed, our seniors will lose. Under the law, nearly 450,000 California seniors, and 3.9 million seniors across the country, will get help with their prescription drug costs over the next decade - with an average savings of $9,000 for every senior. Our seniors can't afford to lose those savings.
If the law is repealed, taxpayers will lose. Just this month, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing health care reform would increase the deficit by $230 billion over the next ten years. And a Harvard economist recently estimated that repealing the health law could "destroy 250,000 to 400,000 jobs annually over the next decade."
If this law is repealed, our small businesses will lose. Small businesses across the country will receive $40 billion in tax credits under the law over the next decade - and rescinding those credits would jeopardize their ability to cover their employees. In my home state of California, small businesses stand to receive $4.4 billion in tax relief.
If the law is repealed, consumers will lose. The health care reform law prevents insurance companies from dropping coverage when patients get sick. It also stops insurers from refusing to pay emergency room bills for people who go to a hospital outside their network. No one in the middle of a health care emergency should have to worry about calling their insurance company's claims department rather than 9-1-1.
If the law is repealed, our families will lose. The legislation requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of our premiums on health care - not on their profits. It requires all health plans to cover preventative health care - like mammograms and vaccines - at little or no cost. And it bars insurance companies from denying people care because they have reached an arbitrary "lifetime limit" on health care benefits.
Julie Walters of Novato, California, knows how devastating that would be to her family. She wrote to me recently about her two-year-old daughter, Violet, who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy and could hit her lifetime limit within five years because of expensive medication and hospitalizations.
Julie Walters warned that repealing the law's protections could endanger her daughter's life.
"A lifetime limit on insurance is a limit on Violet's lifetime, and this is immoral," Walters wrote. "Our entire family, friends, co-workers and a huge network of people that care for and love Violet are depending on our government to do the right thing."
Preserving health care reform is the right thing to do because it will expand health care coverage to 32 million Americans, including millions of Californians.
Before this legislation passed, 45,000 people a year died - not because doctors didn't know how to help them, but because they could not get access to health insurance to cover necessary treatments.
We cannot go back to a system that leaves so many of our citizens without access to life-saving care. Health care reform provides hope to families who have been let down by this broken system - hope that our country can do better.
Repealing health care reform would destroy this hope and put too many of our children, our seniors and our families at risk. I am absolutely willing to work across the aisle to make health care reform better, but repealing it would be an enormous mistake for the American people.
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