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Curbelo: I made a promise that I would fight for better healthcare for the country

House Speaker Paul Ryan, center, with Rep. Greg Walden, right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, speaks during a news conference on the American Health Care Act.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, center, with Rep. Greg Walden, right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, speaks during a news conference on the American Health Care Act. AP

Remember back in 2010 when Congress was preparing to pass the Affordable Care Act? Politicians, pseudo-journalists, and artificial activists from the far right went into full-on panic mode, issuing dire warnings about the legislation’s apocalyptic consequences. People would suffer, they insisted, and our nation would not survive. One prominent, albeit thoughtless, political figure predicted that Americans would face the wrath of so-called death panels if the legislation President Obama regrettably decided to make eponymous became law.

Despite my many objections to the ACA — principled opposition to its excessive government mandates, fines, and threats against citizens and the discrimination against young people, for example — I lamented then the disingenuous nature of the opposition and the despicable tactics used to scare Americans and bolster political fundraising. Deeply flawed and fiscally unsustainable, little doubt remains that the healthcare system must be fixed. But the most drastic scenarios painted by the opposition at the time have simply never materialized.

Sadly, the far left is today simply imitating the reprehensible conduct exhibited by many on the far right in 2010. Words like “unconscionable,” “immoral,” and “cruel,” get tossed around generously in response to the House’s consideration and approval of the American Health Care Act. Americans are being told that they will die as a consequence of this legislation and that life in our country will be miserable should it become law.

One group recently claimed that the proposal would consider victims of rape and domestic violence as having a pre-existing condition, earning a full four Pinocchios from The Washington Post, the highest measurement in deceitful rhetoric. Opponents often ignore key provisions in the new AHCA, many introduced by Democrats, that prohibit discrimination against women, allow young people to stay on their parents’ plans longer, guarantee access to healthcare for those suffering from pre-existing conditions, and more.

To be sure, the legislation moved out of the House last week is far from perfect and needs to be improved. Many people have serious and legitimate concerns — myself included. However, the sheer complexity of healthcare in America means that no bill will ever please everyone. While some today applaud the ACA, many others are facing higher premiums, fewer options, and reduced access to care. In many counties, like Monroe, there is only one insurance provider left. In some counties in Iowa and other states there are none. That’s right, no insurance options at all for those in the individual market.

Before last week’s vote I received strong assurances that major improvements would be made in the Senate. I have been in contact with various offices in that chamber for weeks, and I am particularly focused on making sure we increase the amount of the tax credits for lower-income Americans and for those nearing the age of retirement. I was displeased with the changes that raised questions about coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but hours before the vote we secured the inclusion of an amendment that further protects sick Americans who may have failed to keep continuous coverage in certain states. The legislation guarantees the issuing of health policies to everyone no matter their health status. Almost every person in the country has a family member living with a pre-existing condition, myself included, and I firmly believe all our loved ones deserve access to high-quality care.

For my colleagues who view service in Congress as career, the easiest thing is always to cut and run when controversial issues come up. Being a perpetual No vote takes little work. It’s much harder to be a true legislator and use every resource to strengthen legislation and improve it for your community and the country. I have no trouble saying No. I have said it to presidents of both parties and to my own leadership.

However, I made a promise that I would fight for better healthcare for our country, for a market-based system where Americans, not special interests, are in control and can make the best healthcare choices for themselves and their families.

The legislation before Congress today gets us closer to such a system, though much work remains. With last week’s House vote, that process can continue. And this process should be sober and thoughtful. Only when every American has access to best healthcare system in the world should there be celebration.