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Defending N.H. families

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Washington, DC, May 12, 2019 | By Rep. Annie Kuster

People in New Hampshire and across the country have made it clear – they are tired of the partisan attacks on their healthcare. They want Democrats and Republicans to work together to improve access to affordable healthcare and protect those with preexisting conditions. As a member of the Health Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce, I’m ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do just that.

The Trump Administration has done its best to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA), even though a clear majority of Americans want Congress to keep what works in the law and improve what doesn’t. Thanks to the ACA, young people can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 and people with preexisting conditions can no longer be charged more or denied care all together. Despite the overwhelming support for these reforms, the Trump Administration is fighting in court to eliminate the entire healthcare law. In October of 2018, President Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance that encourages states to promote health plans that deny protections for individuals with preexisting conditions. These partisan attacks must end. 

That’s why I introduced H.R. 986, the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act, which passed in the House of Representatives this week. This legislation would revoke the Trump Administration’s guidance that jeopardizes access to affordable, quality care for people facing arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, sleep apnea, and the list of preexisting conditions that goes right through the alphabet.

Over the last few months, I’ve visited hospitals, clinics, and addiction treatment centers across New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District to hear from patients and medical providers about the challenges they are facing and how we can improve healthcare delivery. I’ve toured and held meetings at Southern New Hampshire Health, Valley Regional Hospital, West Central Behavioral Health Substance Use Services, Revive Recovery Center, Granite Pathways, Riverbend Community Health, Franklin VNA and Hospice, Headrest Recovery Center, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Some of these centers focus on specific types of care, while others offer a variety of different services, but they all shared a similar message with me: the continuous efforts by the Trump Administration to sabotage access to healthcare are causing serious anxiety for providers and patients. Whatever medical issues a patient is dealing with, no Granite Stater should face roadblocks in receiving the care they need.   

A robust healthcare delivery system must make both physical and mental healthcare affordable and accessible. This is a critical component of addressing the opioid epidemic. We’ve learned that many people suffering from substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health issue. Mental and physical health are deeply intertwined and making sure people with mental illness can get the treatment they need is the right thing to do for patients, their families, and our state’s economy. When we invest in the wellbeing of people and enable them to contribute to our communities, we all benefit as a result.

I’ve also heard from many Granite Staters that the prices they are paying for prescription drugs are simply too high. No one should have to choose between their prescriptions and other necessities like food, and we must do everything we can to lower costs. I’m excited that next week, the U.S. House of Representatives will be moving forward on a range of bills that will help to lower the costs of prescription drugs. I’m hopeful that we can move forward on game-changing reforms, including allowing Medicare to negotiate a volume discount on prescription drugs.

I’m the first to admit that the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but we can’t undo the progress we’ve made by allowing it to be weakened and dismantled at the expense of Granite State families. I’ll continue my efforts to bring lawmakers on both sides of the aisle together to improve people’s lives for the better.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, a Democrat, of Hopkinton, represents New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District and serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.