Come January when Democrats officially take control of the U.S. House of Representatives you can expect a major focus to be improving healthcare for all Americans. That's a huge turnaround from what would have been the case had Republicans retained control.
Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) has just sent out an email to supporters and Democratic activists outlining what he envisions as Congressional healthcare agenda in the year ahead. Instead of dismantling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and decimating Medicare and Medicaid, the goal is to actually improve the availability of healthcare to our citizens.
A potential Democratic candidate for President in 2020, Kennedy serves on the House Health Subcommittee and will be in a strong position to help lead this charge.
In his email, he pointed out that "Just this month, America elected a wave of champions of affordable, accessible, equitable care to Congress – including 15 Health Care Heroes! In the process, we defeated dozens of the most anti-health care GOP incumbents. Plus, three states voted to expand Medicare coverage, giving thousands of families access to the care they need."
The Kennedy Agenda
But, said Kennedy, there is much left to do, including:
Pass ironclad protections for those with pre-existing conditions so that Republicans can't hold their coverage hostage ever again;
Stand up to the insurance lobby and Big Pharma to bring down costs of health care premiums and prescription drug prices;
Defend and fortify Medicaid – the largest single source of mental health funding in the country – which covers 40% of all adults currently in treatment for substance use disorders; Medicaid also covers half of all births in the US;
Protect Medicare from Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, who are already signaling that they plan to offset the cost of their tax cut scam by slashing Americans' earned benefits;
Establish comprehensive mental health reform to ensure that treatment is fully covered and to respond to the opioid epidemic;
Champion equity in health care – from protecting Roe v. Wade to addressing horrific maternal mortality rates in our country, particularly for women of color.
"And finally," he wrote, "in the months ahead, Democrats will be debating, discussing, and aggressively moving toward universal health care. A system that denies no one the care they need. A system everyone can access and everyone can afford."
Those are the goals, at least in Kennedy's mind.
Big Difference with Dems in Charge
Contrast this to the conversation just last month when Republican leaders were saying "entitlements" -- meaning Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- needed to be curtailed to help reduce the massive budget deficit exascerbated by the Trump/GOP 2018 tax cut, which largely benefits the wealthy.
Republicans also promised renewed efforts to repeal the ACA if they held onto the House. That would have removed the healthcare law's guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, which as the election neared and polls showed a majority of voters strongly objected, Republicans -- including President Trump -- claimed they would never allow to happen.
Now, with Democrats in control of the House, the conversation has turned away from decimating health care protections for millions of Americans to, instead, finding ways to make it better, more accessible and more affordable.
As Kennedy said, "We're stronger than ever before. We've got our work cut out for us. Let's get to it."