The last two years, the worst pandemic in a century, exposed key vulnerabilities in our health care system. For too long, we have underfunded our public health infrastructure –– and that, combined with the Trump relentless war on the Affordable Care Act and his administration’s slow, ineffective response to COVID-19, left us severely exposed. Tragically, we’ve lost almost one million Americans to this virus - leaving hundreds of thousands of families heartbroken.
But while the Trump administration dragged its feet, I pushed for swift, bold action. I was a vocal advocate early on for providing emergency funding to mount a serious response to COVID-19. I also worked across the aisle to introduce the Global Health Security and Diplomacy Act, legislation to better detect, deter and contain infectious disease outbreaks overseas before they become global pandemics. And once it became clear that former President Trump would not use the Defense Production Act to mobilize a federal response to the pandemic, I introduced The Medical Supply Transparency and Delivery Act to require the federal government to take action to get desperately needed supplies to health care providers and communities.
Thankfully, the Biden administration heeded my call and early on invoked the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of critical medical supplies and vaccines. With the help of the American Rescue Plan, we were able to distribute vaccines, tests, and boosters to hundreds of millions of Americans. Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, we’ve turned a corner on this virus.
We’ve learned a lot of lessons from COVID-19, and it’s our responsibility to make sure future pandemics don’t catch us on our heels ever again. I introduced the Protecting Patients from Counterfeit Medical Devices Act to get counterfeit medical devices out of the domestic supply chain, the Promoting Public Health Information Act to combat health misinformation, the Improving Social Determinants of Health Act of 2021 to study and fund efforts to address how social, environmental, and economic conditions exacerbate health inequities, and the Leveraging Integrated Networks in Communities (LINC) to Address Social Needs Act to help states better coordinate the work of health care and social service providers.
But the public health challenges we face go beyond just COVID-19. We have to ensure health care is affordable and accessible for all. I believe in the most powerful, affluent country in the world, nobody should die or go bankrupt simply because they have the misfortune of getting sick and having insufficient funds to see a doctor.
The Affordable Care Act was a first step toward fixing this broken system. In the years since the law’s passage, the Affordable Care Act has brought down costs and helped millions of Americans get covered. The law has enabled more than 100,000 people in Connecticut to enroll for insurance on Connecticut's state-based exchange and over 267,000 people to receive care through our state's expanded Medicaid coverage. The Affordable Care Act also reduced the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries, provided free preventive and wellness care, and allowed young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26. Thanks to historic investments from President Biden and Democrats in Congress, even more consumers now qualify for premium support that reduces the cost of marketplace plans even further.
When former President Trump was elected, he and the leaders of the Republican Congress made it clear that one of their top priorities was to repeal the Affordable Care Act for good. I was proud to stand with the millions of Americans who spoke out against Republican attempts to rip health care from millions of families and endanger people with pre-existing conditions.
After failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act in Congress, the Trump administration tried to undo the law through the courts – which would have meant that hundreds of thousands of people in Connecticut could have lost their health insurance and those with pre-existing conditions could once again face discrimination.
Thankfully, this effort failed, but we still have our work cut out for us to expand coverage and lower health care costs. That’s why I partnered with Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon to introduce the Choose Medicare Act, a bill that would allow every American and every American business to buy into Medicare. For those who think that Medicare is the right plan for all Americans, this bill puts that theory to the test and allows consumers and businesses to decide whether they want to remain on private insurance or switch to Medicare. I think, if given the opportunity to buy into the most cost-effective, popular health plan in the country, the majority of Americans will choose Medicare.
It’s no secret that health care costs have been increasing at an unsustainable rate in our country. Today, American health care spending per capita is twice as much as other wealthy countries, but we get results that simply don’t warrant all that extra expenditure. That is why I introduced the Strengthening Consumer Protections and Medical Debt Transparency Act, which would require health care entities to communicate with consumers about any assistance they may qualify for and annually report to the federal government about their debt collection practices.