GUEST COLUMN:

Now is the time to strengthen and fight for the Affordable Care Act

The coronavirus pandemic is testing the limits of the U.S. health care system. For patients seeking tests and treatment, access to health care can be the difference between life and death. As we mark the 10th anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we are reminded how this landmark legislation has made a real difference for so many in Nevada and across the country.

Over the past decade, the Affordable Care Act has extended health coverage to over 294,000 Nevadans. No longer can insurance companies put lifetime caps on the amount of care you can receive or discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure or asthma. No longer are young adults forced off their parents’ health insurance plans before age 26.

As coronavirus cases, unfortunately, continue to rise, Nevadans need to know they can get treated for illness without fearing they won’t be able to pay their bills. Eliminating that fear — and keeping people healthy — is exactly why we passed this law in the first place. That’s why I also recently voted to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will make all coronavirus tests free for everyone who needs one.

Due to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s emergency declaration, uninsured residents of our state who are citizens or have legal status can now enroll in health insurance plans through April 15. Importantly, the Affordable Care Act provides subsidies for many who need help paying for coverage. Health care plans may be available for less than you think.

Unfortunately, President Donald Trump has repeatedly attempted to undermine the progress we’ve made. You may have heard that Trump proposed cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak. Even while more of our friends and family members are at risk in this pandemic, the president and his Republican allies are trying to get the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act and once again allow discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. If successful, the lawsuit would lead to devastation for the more than 20 million Americans who gained coverage under the ACA.

That’s a shameful approach. Amid this pandemic, the U.S. health care system desperately needs more stability and support, not more chaos.

Instead of trying new ways to restrict health care access, we should work on new ideas to expand it.

This 10-year anniversary is an opportunity to build upon the progress we’ve made under the Affordable Care Act. Health care should be a right for all, not a privilege for a few. Diseases like coronavirus do not discriminate against people based on their backgrounds or income levels — and neither should the health care system.

The doctors, nurses and health care workers on the front lines of this pandemic deserve our endless support. So do the patients.

Now more than ever, Nevadans are relying on the access to quality, affordable health care provided by the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration’s obsession with sabotaging this landmark achievement — particularly as our nation grapples with the deadly coronavirus outbreak — is irresponsible and cruel.

The Affordable Care Act has drastically improved the U.S. health care system over the past 10 years. At this critical time for so many patients, Trump should stop trying to destroy it.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., serves the state’s 1st Congressional District. She’s in her fifth term in Congress.