Opinion: Strengthening healthcare is duty to our neighbors

The U.S. Capitol Building. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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The U.S. Capitol Building. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Credit: TNS

When I ran for the Georgia State Senate in 2014, my promise to the people of Atlanta – and all of Georgia – was simple: everyone deserves a high-quality education and equal access to affordable health care. Why? Because there’s a clear link between having healthy, well-educated citizens and progress and opportunities for all Georgians.

More than a decade after making that pledge, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made as a state, including sending leaders to Washington who share the same goals.

As Congress debates the Build Back Better Act, a historic investment in country’s future, some of our goals are within reach. It’s an absolutely crucial time for our leaders in DC to continue to advocate for solutions to support everyday Georgians and fight to preserve provisions in the bill that support expanded health care access.

One of those leaders, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), recently shared some of his own goals for health care in a column he authored.

I applaud Sen. Warnock for focusing on protecting Georgians’ access to affordable health care. He can start by making permanent the expanded health insurance subsidies passed earlier this year in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

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Elena Parent

Credit: contributed

Elena Parent

Credit: contributed

caption arrowCaption
Elena Parent

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

As the entire state, especially Atlanta, struggles to fight back against the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus that continues to hospitalize Georgians daily, health care is the paramount issue for so many – especially those who know what it’s like to live without access to care.

Since the federal marketplace was created in 2010, many Georgians have signed up for healthcare for the first time. In fact, last year almost half a million people in Georgia were covered by an ACA marketplace plan. This year during a special enrollment period after Congress created the expanded subsides, almost 88,000 more Georgians signed up for coverage. This coverage allows them to seek medical care where and when they need it.

Without coverage, the cost of health care often drives people to live and work with ailments that would otherwise be treated by a visit to a doctor or other primary care provider. We’ve learned over the past 18 months how crucial it is to be able to seek medical care in a timely manner. When more Georgians are regularly seen by their doctors, everyone benefits from living in a safer and healthier state.

We must continue making progress toward our goal of having a fully insured nation, particularly as we work to quell the surging COVID-19 pandemic. Congress has a unique opportunity to ensure millions have access to affordable coverage by simply making the expanded subsidies for marketplace coverage permanent in the next federal budget.

As Congress considers changes to the once-in-a-generation package, these subsidies must remain in the bill.

If Congress does not act, millions of Americans who have purchased plans could lose their coverage when prices go back up next year, and much progress would be rolled back including for tens of thousands of Georgians.

On behalf of so many Georgians, I want to thank Sen. Warnock for being a champion of affordable care. He campaigned on a promise to expand access to affordable health care, and I know he will deliver.

While I support his goals and future efforts to include as many people as possible in coverage expansion provisions, more than 87,000 people in Georgia are counting on him and his Senate colleagues to work to make ARPA subsidies part of the budget this year.

As a mother, I go to work every day to build a better future for my two children. That future must include a health care system that is accessible for all Americans. As a proud churchgoer, I know Sen. Warnock shares my conviction that we have a duty to help our neighbors. From the state level, I see how important these federal efforts are to the health and wellness of all Georgians. We will cheer on the U.S. Senate to vote on including these vital health care subsidies in the budget.

Georgians are counting on all of its elected leaders to build a healthier, more-inclusive future.

State Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, represents the 42nd District in the Georgia Senate.