03/22/2012 08:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Healthcare Works

Republicans call it "Obamacare," and Democrats call it the Affordable Care Act. Whatever you call it, healthcare works. Rather than trying to repeal the healthcare law that that has bettered the lives of Americans young and old, Republicans should join Democrats in finding ways to expand it so that no American is without access to affordable healthcare.

The story of healthcare reform actually begins in 1912, when Republican President Theodore Roosevelt first attempted to pass a universal healthcare bill. His Square Deal would have guaranteed medical coverage to all Americans at the turn of the century. In 1935, when I was 5 years-old, President Franklin D. Roosevelt fought for healthcare as part of the New Deal. While restoring our nation after the Great Depression he called healthcare a right of all Americans regardless of their standing, race or creed.

For the past century, the American people sought the right to affordable and quality healthcare. In the wake of the worst recession in our country since the Depression, the privatized healthcare system was failing to protect Americans medically and financially. In all, 50.7 million Americans were uninsured in 2009. Between 2008 and 2009, 4.4 million Americans lost their health coverage from their insurance companies. Even those who remained covered were not getting affordable care. Medical bills from illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, accounted for more than half of all personal bankruptcies. However, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, those days are behind us.

Today, 17 million children across America and up to 32,000 in our Manhattan congressional district with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied healthcare. A total of 6,500 young adults in our district are part of the 2.5 million nationwide who can stay on their parents' health insurance after college until they are 26 years-old. Right now in our community, 18,000 children and 90,000 adults join the millions of Americans who have access to free preventive services such as HIV testing and cancer screenings.

Why do Republicans want to repeal these benefits from so many Americans? Doing so would cause 30 million people to lose their coverage. Opponents claim that the healthcare law kills jobs, but that has not been the case. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.5 million jobs have been created since the healthcare law was enacted. Almost half a million of those jobs were in the healthcare industry. In fact, 1,340 small businesses in our district have received tax credits to help maintain or expand healthcare coverage for their employees. $14.7 million in public health grants have been given to community health centers, hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare providers in the district to improve the community's health.

Healthcare reform has also improved Medicare and the lives of seniors, with 4,600 seniors in the district receiving prescription drug discounts worth $3 million, an average discount of $660 per senior. Aside from saving Americans money in short term, the Affordable Care Act will reduce the federal deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade and by more than $1 trillion in the decade after that.

Millions of Americans now have access to better and more affordable healthcare benefits as a result of this law. Two years ago on March 23, 2010, I was proud to stand with my Democratic colleagues behind President Barack Obama when he signed the healthcare bill that I sponsored in the House. I will never forget that day. I will continue to work tirelessly to defend and expand access to affordable and quality healthcare for my constituents and all Americans.