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Why Obamacare is here to stay

Five years ago, our nation moved away from an increasingly expensive and inaccessible health-care system. We finally declared that health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for all Americans. Five years later, through the Affordable Care Act, all Americans now have a health-care system with vital protections, and more affordable and accessible coverage.

To be clear, the Affordable Care Act was designed to improve health-insurance coverage, and to provide access to affordable coverage regardless of a state's action or inaction to establish a state marketplace. Whether you live in Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia or Kentucky, you have an opportunity to receive premium tax credits. The petitioners' argument in King v. Burwell, which challenged the legality of tax credits for those obtaining insurance through a marketplace set up by the federal government instead of by a state, was always considered frivolous by legal experts. Thankfully, six Supreme CourtJustices ruled in favor of the 6.4 million Americans at risk of losing financial assistance and the millions more also at risk of losing coverage.


Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate as the opinion for health care is reported outside the Supreme Court in Washington, June 25, 2015.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate as the opinion for health care is reported outside the Supreme Court in Washington, June 25, 2015.

Since the law took effect, more than 16 million Americans have gained health coverage, and the number of uninsured individuals has decreased significantly. Health insurance is more affordable, people no longer fear being denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, and women cannot be charged more simply because they are women. The law also holds insurance companies accountable for abusive practices. Not only is the Affordable Care Act expanding access, it is also reducing the deficit and costing even less than originally projected. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, federal health spending will be nearly $700 billion less over the period from 2011-2020 than what was originally projected in 2010.

The Affordable Care Act is working, plain and simple.

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Sadly, some have remained in denial that affordable and accessible health coverage is now the reality and law of the land. Even though the evidence has clearly shown that the Affordable Care Act is working for American families, some have made it their mission to undermine and dismantle it.

To date, 28 states plus the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. However, 22 states — including many of the states that would benefit most — continue to refuse federal funding to assist uninsured low-income families and others in need. These 22 states have lagged behind other states in reducing the number of uninsured over the last year and a half, and researchers at the Urban Institute estimate that, if these states do not change course, 4.3 million of their citizens will be deprived of health insurance coverage in 2016. The decision not to expand Medicaid is leaving many of our nation's most vulnerable families without access to preventive care, a usual source of clinic care, and other needed medical services. This decision not only affects families and communities, it weakens our local and state economies, ultimately hurting our nation's economy. Regardless of where they live, all Americans have a right to access affordable health care.

Over the past five years, we have heard from families across the nation that are able to afford health care for the first time, from small business owners now able to provide access to quality coverage for their employees, to young adults who have remained covered through their parents' insurance, and so many others. Through the Affordable Care Act, hardworking families have stronger consumer rights and protections, and more affordable coverage options.

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In 2012, and again in 2015, the Supreme Court struck down partisan attempts that sought to undermine the Affordable Care Act. We must now move beyond political attacks against the law, and work in Congress, with the administration, and local and state-level partners to ensure that all American families have access to the quality, affordable health care they deserve.

Commentary by U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), Committee on Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Committee on Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI). They are the senior Democrats on the Congressional committees with jurisdiction over the Affordable Care Act. Follow them on Twitter @repbobbyscott, @FrankPallone, @repsandylevin