America’s small businesses are thriving, thanks to the Affordable Care Act
Ten years ago, America’s health care system was on the brink. Families were one illness away from financial disaster. Individuals with preexisting conditions were denied coverage and care. Many small businesses were unable to offer coverage, and America’s entrepreneurial spirit was stifled by “job lock” because aspiring business owners couldn’t risk losing their employer-sponsored coverage.
But that all changed on March 23, 2010, when President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. To date, this is one of the single most rewarding days of my life.
My colleagues and I participated in dozens of hearings and markups, helping to craft key provisions to lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, ensure access to birth control without cost sharing, and increase nursing home quality. I celebrated as President Obama took pen to paper, and knew the bill before us would bring longstanding change to the United States.
And it has.
In the decade since, historic gains have been made. Over 20 million previously uninsured Americans have coverage and over 130 million people with pre-existing conditions are now protected. In Illinois, uninsured rates have been nearly cut in half.
Yet, the often-unsung success of the ACA is what it has done for small business.
Before the ACA, small businesses and their employees represented a disproportionate share of the working uninsured. More than six in 10 uninsured working adults were self-employed entrepreneurs or individuals working for companies with less than 100 employees.
Today, over half of all ACA marketplace enrollees own or are employees of a small business.
For many entrepreneurs—and especially those with pre-existing conditions, like Karin M. of Chicago—the ACA has been critical to helping them grow or start their businesses.
As a solo-entrepreneur 10 years ago, Karin found it difficult to find consistent and reliable health coverage. In May 2015, an unexpected allergic reaction sent Karin into life-threatening anaphylactic shock. A month later, she had another reaction.
If not for the ACA, Karin’s medical bills would have been crushing, possibly leading to bankruptcy or death.
Karin is not alone.
Hundreds of thousands of businesses have benefited from the ACA, and their successes are felt nationwide. With each growing small business, communities are strengthened, jobs are created, and America’s competitive advantage is reinforced.
On this milestone anniversary, we have so much to celebrate. The ACA is at its highest approval rating since passage, with a majority of the American public in support. But if we are not vigilant, the Trump administration will undo this progress as they push their agenda to sabotage the ACA.
Despite public opposition, the administration is working to dismantle the law in a piecemeal fashion. Already, it has repealed the individual mandate, expanded short-term or “junk” insurance plans that don’t cover preexisting conditions or preventive care, and slashed outreach and advertising that help Americans get covered. Alongside all of this, they have refused to defend the law in federal court, even as the Supreme Court prepared to hear the case.
These actions are sowing uncertainty, and could destabilize the marketplaces—driving up rates for millions of business owners and their employees.
However, my Democratic colleagues and I are as committed today as we were a decade ago to protecting your health care, and we will not let the Trump administration or congressional Republicans thwart the gains we have made.
Democrats are fighting back. In the House of Representatives, we have had to voted more than 60 times against efforts to repeal the ACA. We have authored and passed legislation that would protect the ACA and build on its successes, like the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 987).
Karin and all those inspiring Americans who have struck out on their own are counting on us to keep fighting to protect the ACA and working to further perfect our health care system.
Schakowsky represents the 9th District of Illinois and is chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee.
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