The Affordable Care Act, signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, was a monumental accomplishment that protected those with preexisting conditions, expanded preventive care, lowered drug prices, provided small business tax credits, and lowered the rate of uninsured Americans by 40%, from 44 million to 27 million people.
Despite those gains, over 27 million Americans remain uninsured and an additional 56 million Americans remain underinsured. I want to be clear: health care should be a right of all Americans, not a privilege reserved for a few.
I believe that every American deserves basic health care coverage and access to a quality provider network in their community. Twenty-one countries guarantee 100% health care coverage for their citizenry. The United States of America has less than 92% coverage through either a publicly provided option – Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, VHA, or IHS, or a private plan provided through an employer. Over 8% of Americans lack coverage completely.
While the Trump administration is in court trying to repeal the ACA and take away the health insurance of those Americans who have benefited from the program, Joe Biden has a plan to solidify and expand the ACA with a public option. The Biden Healthcare Plan would provide Americans with a Medicare-like option that would increase the rate of Americans with health care coverage from less than 92% to over 97%, all while increasing quality of care and availability of providers in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
I spend my free time supporting organizations like Mile High United Way and the Denver Health Foundation and have seen the impact of health care limitations on vulnerable communities. A public option would protect people by eliminating surprise billing, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, increasing the supply of quality generics, defending reproductive rights and restoring federal funding to Planned Parenthood, reducing the maternal mortality rate, and defending health care protection for all people, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or income. Biden’s health care plan would double the federal government’s investment in community health centers, a provider resource many rely on for their health care and a component I have supported through fundraising for the Denver Health Foundation.
Over the past decade, our government has come a long way in expanding health coverage to improve people’s lives in a meaningful way, but we have a long way yet to go to reach universal coverage, expand the quality of community health care, and create a more effective and equitable health care system. By supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we can pass the public option and take a significant step toward a better health care system and healthier communities. In the midst of a global pandemic, we can clearly see the cracks in our system. Let’s work together to mend those cracks and build a better system for the American people. Pass the public option.
Erik Clarke is a senior management consultant who specializes in audit, public finance, and strategy and has worked with federal agencies, state governments, county and municipal governments, special districts, nonprofit organizations, and private corporations. He’s active on community boards for the Mile High United Way and the Denver Health Foundation Next Generation Giving. He lives with his partner and dog in southeast Denver.