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Guest opinion

Hernandez: Health insurance subsidies must be a top priority in Congress

Our state is facing public health challenges coming from multiple directions. As Arizona continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and a record-high West Nile season, health care remains one of the most important issues for my constituents in Legislative District 3 and so many others across the state. Losing access to affordable health insurance would be unacceptable, especially now when countless Arizonans are concerned about their well-being and that of their families.

We must do everything we can to make health care accessible and affordable. I urge my U.S. senators — Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema — to understand how crucial it is for Congress to protect federal insurance subsidies for millions of Americans before they expire next year.

My work in the public health sector has shown me time and time again the impact that access to affordable health insurance, or lack thereof, can have on families each day.

In my role as a state representative — and especially as a public health professional — I was encouraged by efforts to persuade senators to include an extension of the expanded marketplace health insurance subsidies in the budget currently taking shape on Capitol Hill. I encourage our senators to go one step further. In order to protect millions of Americans and help keep us all safe, Congress must make these subsidies permanent so American families can afford the health coverage they need.

If these expanded subsidies are not made permanent, they will expire in 2022. Millions of Americans could lose their health insurance due to a lack of affordability.

More than 2.8 million Americans signed up for plans on the federal marketplace after subsidies were expanded earlier this year. In our state alone, more than 89,000 people had access to affordable insurance this year, some for the first time, thanks to their new eligibility for federal relief. The same 89,000 Arizonans could see premiums rise by hundreds of dollars a month.

We can’t afford that cost and the effect this would have on our economy and health care system. No individual or family in the United States should suffer without access to health care. We have a responsibility to provide that care for all Americans and Congress can’t miss this opportunity to make vital insurance plans affordable for millions.

As a state representative, I have written to both Sen. Kelly and Sen. Sinema to strongly advocate for the subsidy extension to be included in the final budget reconciliation by the end of the year. Fierce budget negotiations have been taking place on Capitol Hill. The people of our state and millions of Americans are counting on Congress to protect their coverage.

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While I understand Congress is working to address issues relating to every facet of American life, I urge our senators to remain focused on affordable health care because public health is foundational to our daily lives and the future of our country.

We cannot have a thriving, equitable economy, and impactful education system, or a successful democracy until our public health crises are addressed properly. Reducing the number of people living without insurance is one tool Congress can use to make our country healthier and safer for all.

Public health must be a top priority in Congress and Arizonans need our senators and representatives in Washington to deliver.

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1 comment on this story

Oct 21, 2021, 2:12 pm
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Hey Hernandez,

We don’t need “access to healthcare” we need healthcare.

What a hack. I hope you lose.

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