OPINION – Finkenauer: Strengthening Healthcare Coverage for Kids and Working Families

By Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer

Late last month, I helped pass the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Enhancement Act, the most significant upgrade to our healthcare system since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010.

Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer

This legislation will lower health insurance costs, allow negotiations for lower prescription drug prices, and encourage states to expand Medicaid coverage — building on the innovations of the original ACA and correcting some of its shortcomings. 

The ACA was a transformational law that has improved the lives of millions of Americans, despite a decade of partisan attacks against it. This package — which is now under consideration in the Senate — will further increase access and drive down costs. It expands coverage, reduces prescription drug prices and strengthens protections for people with pre-existing conditions 

I’m proud to have cast my vote for this historic legislation that will provide financial relief and better health to so many hardworking Iowa families. 

And I’m especially proud of one provision included in the package: my bipartisanComprehensive Access to Robust Insurance Now Guaranteed for Kids Act, otherwise known as the CARING for Kids Act. 

introduced the CARING for Kids Act as a standalone bill this past spring, with Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-16) as the lead co-sponsor. The bill permanently funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP. 

CHIP is one of the great healthcare policy successes of the last 25 years, providing affordable health insurance to 10 million children from lower-income families who do not qualify for Medicaid. Here in Iowa, the program is known as Hawk-I, and serves roughly 75,000 children, with no family paying more than $40 a month for coverage. 

For all its success, though, CHIP has had one problem. Since the beginning, it’s been funded only for limited periods at a time, requiring Congress to proactively vote every few years to continue providing coverage to vulnerable children. In 2017, lawmakers allowed funding to lapse, in some cases preventing eligible children from enrolling in coverage. 

That’s where the CARING for Kids Act comes in. My bipartisan bill will ensure politics never again threatens kids’ access to health care. For too long, D.C. politicians have used kids’ health care as a bargaining chip in their political games. No more. This program must be permanently funded so that gamesmanship never threatens our children’s health. And with the inclusion of the CARING for Kids Act in the Affordable Care Enhancement Act, it will be.

It’s important to me, too, that we advanced this bill on a bipartisan basis. I look forward to continuing to work with my Republican colleagues to make sure this commonsense bill becomes law. 

In addition to the CARING for Kids Act, the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Enhancement Act also allows us to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, so that Americans no longer have to pay more for our medicines than Big Pharma charges for the same drugs overseas. 

Prescription drug prices are crushing too many of our friends and family members across Northeast Iowa. I’ve made more affordable prescriptions a top priority, and I’m proud to see Congress advancing a meaningful solution. 

The package provides more coverage by providing new incentives — and penalties — for states to expand Medicaid and ensure healthcare options for the 4.8 million Americans currently excluded from our healthcare system. It also cracks down on junk plans that do not cover essential medical treatments and drugs and strengthens protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

And just as importantly, the Affordable Care Enhancement Act significantly increases the ACA’s affordability subsidies to cover more healthcare expenses and cover more middle-class families. For the first time, no person will have to pay more than 8.5 percent of their income for a benchmark silver plan in the ACA marketplaces, and many Americans will see their premiums cut in half or more.

Abby Finkenauer represents Iowa’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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