March 23, 2023

Chairman Aguilar: House Democrats are prepared to defend the ACA and the millions of Americans who rely on it for health insurance

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Vice Chair Ted Lieu held a leadership press conference with Reps. Glenn Ivey (MD-04) and Jill Tokuda (HI-02) celebrating the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

CHAIRMAN PETE AGUILAR: Vice Chair Lieu and I are joined by two amazing new Members who joined in the 118th Congress, Glenn Ivey from Maryland and Jill Tokuda from Hawaii. I asked them to come and share how their community has been impacted by the Affordable Care Act. These Members ran on health care and the Affordable Care Act. 

In our communities, more than 16 million Americans have health insurance from the ACA — a record high. Today is the 13th year anniversary of when the Affordable Care Act went into effect. This law has become the most enduring, the most popular and one of the most impactful pieces of legislation in a generation  — though we hope that its rival in impact of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the American Rescue Plan that were passed in the last Congress will likely carry the mantle of being popular, effective and helping people. 

I came to Congress, Ted and I came to Congress in the hundred and —  what was the number, sorry? In 2015. Both of us with school-aged kids from California and the hot Republican rhetoric at the time was the effort to “Repeal and Replace,” and it was getting underway, and it didn’t amount to anything legislatively because the real, tangible benefits of ACA had been felt in our communities and across this country. However, that didn't stop House Republicans from continuing to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. And now, they still want to continue that discussion, and they want to use the debt ceiling to weaken the Affordable Care Act and to assault Medicaid, that serves so many in our communities. 

House Democrats are prepared to defend the ACA and the millions of Americans who rely on it for health insurance. With that, I'll yield to the Vice Chair, Ted Lieu. 

VICE CHAIR TED LIEU: Thank you, Chairman Aguilar. Thank you for your leadership. Today we celebrate the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. This law has reduced the uninsured rate by nearly half. It has saved lives. And last term, when Democrats were in control, we strengthened health care. We capped insulin at $35 for Medicare beneficiaries, and this year, under the leadership of President Biden, he has gotten a number of drug companies to cap insulin at $35 for non-Medicare beneficiaries. 

What have Republicans done when they took control? Well, they spent their resources of the committee staff, the time and attention of their Members to hold not one but two congressional hearings complaining about Twitter. They also took turns to read the Constitution on the House floor. How does that help the American family? It doesn’t. 

What we want to do is make sure that we continue to strengthen health care, and that's why we're celebrating the ACA today and we have two amazing members with us, Jill Tokuda and Glenn Ivey. And I'm so honored to introduce Glenn. He had a distinguished career before Congress, and now I'm honored to serve with him on Judiciary. He's going to tell you his story. 

REPRESENTATIVE GLENN IVEY: Thank you. Good morning. My name is Glenn Ivey. I represent Maryland's Fourth Congressional District, which is the suburbs on the eastern side of Washington, D.C., so I get to drive to work every day, unlike Representative Tokuda, who has to fly from Hawaii. No jet lag for me, but I started, actually, in the 100th Congress to show my age. At that point, there was a fight to try and get health care coverage that went on for the next 30-plus years. 

Fortunately, with Obamacare, which is our 13th anniversary, for this I should say ACA, but I like to call it Obamacare because, in the future, I want people to know how this legislation got put in place, why they have health care, and why they didn't have it before that this is a seminal and turning point moment for them. 

And it was important for me because before Obamacare came into place, I had a health care scare. It turned out I had a high blood pressure incident, and I was taken to the hospital by ambulance. They did a check. They put me on blood pressure medication, but the doctor there said, ‘you know, for African American males, sometimes there's a kidney complication for that, so I’d like to do an MRI.’ Now, I was about to get the MRI and I said, ‘well, how much does that cost?’ And they said, ‘$5,000,’ so I said, ‘I can't do that, I'm going to have to pass on the MRI.’ Fortunately, where the doctor was in the Baltimore area, I was able to come back down to the Prince George's County area where my health care coverage applied, and get the MRI done. And I say fortunately because they found cancer in the MRI scan. And based on that, I was able to get treatment and recover fully and quickly. But I got to say, you know, I might not be here today, but for the ability to have that MRI done. And I wouldn't have gotten the MRI done, but for health care to pay for it. 

Now, there's thousands of Americans, tens of thousands of Americans who've gotten coverage. Actually, hundreds of thousands of Americans, or millions, I guess, who've gotten coverage. And in Prince George's County, it made a huge difference as well. I think we need to make sure we expand this on this anniversary. Remember that there are states, mainly red states, that're still fighting the expansion of Obamacare into their states. They're not explaining to their public that they're keeping them from getting health care that they need. And they're not really telling them that they're playing Russian roulette with the lives of many of their constituents. The time for that has come to pass. We need to get this done. We need to expand it. I look forward to working with my colleagues and getting that done. And now, let me turn this over to my jetlagged colleague, Representative Tokuda.

REPRESENTATIVE JILL TOKUDA: Thank you, Glenn, and thanks for calling me out on the fact that I'm still six hours behind right now, but, who’s keeping track? Thank you again for including me in this press conference. And it's hard to follow Glenn’s story, but it is truly a testament that his story, unfortunately, is not unique. There are so many Americans across this country that, had it not been for that health care coverage they received through the Affordable Care Act, could likely not live to see another day. And so today is truly important. And you know, they often say about Hawaii, ‘Lucky you live Hawaii’, right? And they're not just talking about the wonderful people, the beautiful beaches, the great food. It really comes down, in my humble opinion, to the fact that we prioritize health care. Hawaii is about being healthy and taking care of our people like family. 

You know, nearly forty years ago before the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, Hawaii became the first state in the country to set minimum health standards and coverage for workers. The Prepaid Health Care Act, which some of you may be familiar with, passed in 1974 and guaranteed employer-sponsored health coverage for most employees in Hawaii and capping their premiums at 1.5% of their pay. And I served in the Hawaii State Senate for twelve years. I walked door to door to countless people, and I will tell you that there's not many people who don't know about the Prepaid Health Care Act in Hawaii. They credit it with the fact that in many cases it has saved their lives, kept them healthy. In many ways, our Prepaid Health Care Act was the ACA before the ACA. And on March 23rd of 2010, the rest of the country finally caught up with Hawaii and figured out something we knew all along: health care matters. Taking care of our people like family, it matters, and the enactment of the ACA put in place comprehensive reforms that have since made health care affordable, as we know, prohibited insurers from discriminating against people with preexisting health conditions and ensured women are guaranteed essential services. You know, Hawaii’s Prepaid Health Care Act was an act enacted nearly half a century ago. And today, Hawaii has some of the lowest uninsured rates in the country with under 4% uninsured in Hawaii, and we remain one of the healthiest states, happiest states in the country as well.  At the same time, I will tell you, representing a district that is 96% rural, and we have got some of the most challenged communities in the country, health care still is an issue. But what we know when we sit down at tables together and talk about this is that the ACA has and will continue to make a difference in their ability to access care and coverage. 

I once sat down in a park on Lanai and an old man told me, ‘it's really difficult to be born and to die here.’ And when we talked more about what we could do together to make it a place where they could really call this home for themselves and their children, it became evident that through the Affordable Care Act provisions and what we are doing here in Congress, the fight we have we would be able to make sure that generations of Hawaii residents, residents across this country, can rely on the care that they need to really see a life for themselves in their communities and this country. And so, knowing what we know about Hawaii's example and forty years ago what we did through the Prepaid Health Care Act and the results that it's had on our community, let's just imagine what this country could look like in forty years, how many millions more Americans will live longer, healthier and happier lives. And all because comprehensive health care reforms we made thirteen years ago with the enactment of the ACA are continuing to be fought for and possible. So, thank you for including me in this conversation, and we look forward to many more years of the ACA. Mahalo.

Video of the full press conference and Q&A can be viewed here.