Believe it! The District is a national model for health coverage
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November marks the beginning of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and District of Columbia residents should be proud of the strides D.C. is making on affordable health insurance. Because of the ACA, the District ranks second in the nation in residents with health insurance. Our city shows that, despite the many ways the Trump administration has tried to dismantle and undermine the ACA, the landmark law is working right under their noses here in the nation’s capital.

When DC Health Link opened for business in 2013, 42,000 District residents were without health coverage, putting the uninsured rate at 6.7 percent. The most recent Census report now puts the District’s uninsured rate at 3.2 perecent, ranking the District second behind Massachusetts for the highest percentage of residents with health insurance.

An important reason for this improvement is the District’s locally operated and managed insurance marketplace for residents. Our marketplace has made it easy to shop, compare, and enroll in coverage, and has been recognized nationally for two straight years for providing state-of-the-art customer shopping tools. And, DC Health Link is also the District’s online health insurance marketplace for small businesses, enabling them to provide more than one option to their employees, something previously only available to large businesses.


Each year DC Health Link offers a generous enrollment period to help District residents get quality health insurance. DC Health Link has an impressive 25 different health plans for individuals and families, from CareFirst to Kaiser Permanente and others. In addition, DC Health Link has designed a standard plan option that ensures that residents can obtain services, like primary care, specialty care, mental health care, urgent care and generic prescription medications, without first having to meet the plan’s annual deductible.

While the Trump administration has depressed enrollment nationally by cutting Open Enrollment to just six weeks and spent practically nothing on marketing, DC Health Link is providing residents a full three months to enroll and is investing in outreach to enroll uninsured residents.

Until January 2019, I was in the minority without all the tools necessary to fight back when congressional Republicans and President Trump effectively eliminated the individual mandate, but the District was able to fight back on its own. The D.C. Council’s vote to establish our own local individual mandate for D.C. residents held down premiums. When President TrumpDonald TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat MORE tried to weaken the ACA through the expansion of junk insurance in the form of short-term limited duration plans and association health plans, the District enacted local laws to protect our residents and small businesses from these junk plans and protected people with preexisting conditions. The District refused to let Congress stop the city from protecting the health of its own residents.

When I worked with President Obama to enact the ACA almost a decade ago, we made sure that Americans finally had access to quality insurance no matter their background. We made sure that preexisting conditions were covered, that people were not shut out of the private health insurance market, and that people were not charged higher rates because of past or current medical needs. We ensured that women were no longer charged higher premiums than men and we made sure that health insurance is real – no more limits on annual and lifetime caps on coverage. Health insurance must cover essential health benefits like hospitalization, primary care and specialists, lab work, annual checkups, prescription drugs, as well as mental and behavioral health. These vital programs remain intact in the District.

Thanks to the ACA, and the uninterrupted commitment of District elected officials to expand health insurance coverage, almost 97 percent of D.C.’s residents now have health insurance. Now, as the District continues to grow, we must keep our coverage rate high as we welcome new residents. The Affordable Care Act is working in the District of Columbia, where the nation’s laws are made. It is too bad that the Trump administration and Senate Republicans are not learning from the evidence in plain sight of the White House and Capitol Hill. They should be joining us to continue to improve the ACA instead of trying to tear it down.

For District residents, please remember DC Health Link’s open enrollment period is Nov. 1, 2019 through Jan. 31, 2020. Get covered and protect your family.

Norton represents the District of Columbia in Congress.