Opinion

Josh Harder: I won’t stop until everyone in valley guaranteed health care

Modesto

Last year, I promised to fight to protect our families’ access to health care.

Here in the Central Valley it’s not hypothetical – we all know someone who would have lost insurance because of a pre-existing condition and we keep hearing stories of families going bankrupt after a bad diagnosis.

All this while pharmaceutical companies rake in profits.

It’s not right, and I’m doing something about it.

A lot of people think the fight for health care is over – but it’s not. Just a couple weeks ago, the Trump administration was still arguing in court that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed.

We know that would be a disaster.

And they’re doing even more behind the scenes to weaken the law and make it easier for insurance companies to take your money, then refuse to pay for your care when you need it most.

Over 300,000 people in the Central Valley have a pre-existing condition. These conditions include life-threatening diseases like cancer or heart failure, but also common things like diabetes, pregnancy, mental health issues, and obesity. Every one of us has a loved one would could lose their access to health care if the law is weakened or repealed.

That’s why over the past couple weeks, I’ve written and passed two amendments through the House of Representatives to protect your care.

The first would protect Americans from being scammed by junk health care plans. These plans take your money in premiums but refuse to pay for many services people need, including for mental health problems like anxiety, depression, or substance use disorder.

A woman in Oakdale recently told me her story about junk plans. Her daughter went off to school and got cheap, university-sponsored insurance. Like a lot of people, the family thought since she was young and healthy, they wouldn’t need much coverage.

But after a couple years, her daughter had a mental health issue and was denied coverage. Even though she had paid premiums for years, the insurance company refused to cover her, and their family had to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket.

They’re still paying it off today. More than 10 years later.

And that’s a common story – because only about half of these junk plans cover mental health care and only about a third cover substance use disorder. We know how devastating untreated mental health issues and addiction can be for our families and our community.

My amendment makes insurance companies be more transparent if they won’t pay for mental health services.

My other amendment is aimed at helping folks struggling with opioid addictions get access to the health care they need to get clean and back on their feet. At a time when over 130 Americans die every day of opioid overdoses, we have to do even more to make sure people can get the medical help they need to get better. That’s just what my provision would do.

At a time when cable news makes it seem like no one can agree on anything, I’m excited that I was able to pass both proposals with bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans. In fact, my first provision passed unanimously. Both of these ideas would protect access to health care for the Central Valley.

This is a top priority for me, and I won’t stop working until every person in the Valley has guaranteed access to the care they need.

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