My Turn: Decision not to reopen ACA was an act of pettiness

For the Monitor
Published: 4/9/2020 6:15:15 AM
Modified: 4/9/2020 6:15:04 AM

Over the past few weeks, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has dramatically increased, we have seen a wide variety of actions being taken by the government, health care workers and many other groups. Many of these actions are positive and reassuring.

Day after day, medical workers continue to risk their lives to treat patients across the country. Congress was able to pass a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill with bipartisan support. However, this virus has also exposed some serious flaws in the American political system and the current administration.

I have an incredibly personal relationship with the Affordable Care Act. I remember the day it first passed very well – even though I was only 11 years old. That night, my family sat around the dinner table and toasted then-President Barack Obama.

My mother was diagnosed with lupus in 1988, and for over 20 years lived in constant fear that her insurance provider would kick her off her plan when her medical expenses got high. My father and I both have asthma and have required medication for most of our lives.

On that night in March 2010, my family breathed a huge sigh of relief – as the law prevented insurers from dropping people with pre-existing conditions. Over seven years later, my family gathered around the television late one night to see if the “skinny repeal” plan would pass in the Senate. I will never forget the moment when Sen. John McCain gave the thumbs down. My mother burst into tears, and once again my family gave a huge sigh of relief.

On the evening of Tuesday, March 31, a senior official in the Trump administration announced that they would not be reopening ACA enrollment during this pandemic. The United States still has around 27 million uninsured citizens, and that number is likely to grow as the economic fallout from this crisis worsens.

In the past two weeks, over 6.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment, and current estimates predict that the unemployment rate could exceed 32%. As unemployment rises, so does the number of uninsured Americans. However, the Trump administration has shown no regard for the health and safety of the American people in its failure to reopen ACA enrollment.

Now is the time when the American people are looking to our government for help. There is mass uncertainty, and the empty streets are full of dread. No one knows when this will be over. No one knows when we’ll be able to go back to “normal.”

However, the current administration has continued to bungle its handling of the crisis. Reopening the ACA provides the Trump administration with an opportunity to actually help the American people. The Affordable Care Act reduced the number of uninsured Americans by almost 50%. However, as a result of pride, pettiness and partisanship, the current administration has decided to turn a blind eye to the people who are looking for leadership through this time of uncertainty and doubt.

(Gabriel Gever of Basking Ridge, N.J., is a student at Dartmouth College.)

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