A right to healthcare belongs in our Constitution
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After eight years attacking the Affordable Care Act, Congressional Republicans are facing a tough reality: ending this landmark law means millions of Americans will lose health coverage. 

My Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate are committed to protecting Americans’ health care, safeguarding the Affordable Care Act’s historic progress, and finding tangible improvements to make care more affordable.

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Even as we stand up for the Affordable Care Actin the coming months, we are fighting a broader battle: is health care a fundamental right for all Americans or, as Republicans believe, just another commodity to be traded and profited from?

I believe health care is a fundamental right, which is why I introduced the America's Right to Health Care Amendment.

This proposed amendment to our Constitution is simple and straight-forward: As a nation, we must act to guarantee every American affordable, quality health care.

According to recent polling from the Pew Research Center, more than 60 percent of Americans agree that providing health coverage to all Americans is the federal government's responsibility.

While my amendment enshrines that principle into our Constitution, we have already made tremendous progress under the Affordable Care Act towards meeting that federal responsibility.

The uninsured rate is at its lowest in history. People who never before had access to health coverage, because they had a pre-existing condition like diabetes or heart disease, are now able to get the care they need. I hear often from people who are alive today because of this law.

Health coverage has also become more equitable and comprehensive. Women can no longer be charged more than men for our basic health care -- and access to family planning must be covered. Young adults are able to stay on their family's plan until age 26. No one has to pay a co-pay for recommended preventive and wellness care.

An end to annual and lifetime limits means that people who face a devastating diagnosis like cancer no longer have to worry about their insurance companies stopping payment for their care.

Of course, there are some things we need to fix about the Affordable Care Act, including addressing high premiums in the individual market and reining in out-of-control prescription drug costs.

Under the America’s Right to Health Care Amendment the federal government must find common-sense solutions to high out-of-pocket costs instead of simply adding to insurance and drug companies’ profits.

More than just safeguarding our progress and mandating solutions, the amendment also makes clear that universal access to health care is essential to the strength of the nation. More than 14 million people have gained health coverage in the 32 states that expanded Medicaid. For many, this means getting the care they need to fully participate in the workforce.

That is good for them and their families, good for businesses, and good for our entire society. Even Republican governors have embraced increased access to health care under the Affordable Care Act because of its benefits to state economies.

Despite the broad public agreement that all Americans must have access to health care, I am a realist. This Republican Congress is more interested in catering to big drug and insurance companies than in considering proposals like my amendment.

But the America's Right to Health Care Amendment lays down a critical marker by which we can judge Congressional Republicans' health care proposals.

Do Congressional Republicans want to expand coverage to more Americans or do they want take it away from our families? Does the Republican majority support access to high-quality care or do they want to make it easier for insurance companies to deny care? Does the GOP favor or oppose important consumer protections that save lives?

So far, the answer from Republicans is clear: they want to go backwards and give big drug and insurance companies more control over our health care system. That’s just plain wrong.

Every American deserves to have affordable, quality health care. By coming together, standing up, and speaking out, we can make access to health care a fundamental right for all Americans.

Rep. Betty McCollum represents Minnesota’s 4th District in the United States House of Representatives.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.