Healthcare

Amy On The Issues

My Plan to Strengthen Our Health Care System

Health care is a human right. Everyone should have access to high-quality, affordable care. Achieving that goal will be my top priority in Congress.

It is shameful that President Trump and Congressional Republicans are trying to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. Their efforts threaten to take health care away from millions of New Jerseyans—including young children—and they have already caused premiums to rise. We should be building on the ACA instead of undermining it.

In Congress, I will always fight to protect Americans’ health care. I will work to improve the Affordable Care Act to lower health care costs and protect coverage for preexisting conditions. I will stand up to pharmaceutical and health insurance companies to reduce drug prices and out-of-pocket costs. And I will fight to protect and expand Medicare and Medicaid, so that everyone that wants to, can buy insurance coverage.

I will also provide the leadership New Jersey needs to respond to the coronavirus. COVID-19 is a crisis of national and global scale, and it demands a bold and serious response. That response must leave the U.S. better-prepared to fight future crises and make sure every American has access to emergency and preventative medicine. We will all be safer and healthier if everyone is able to afford their copays and receive the care they need without fear of cost.

Give everyone access to high-quality, affordable health care.

No one should get sick because they can’t afford to go to the doctor or go into debt to pay their hospital bills. No one should have to make the choice between essentials like groceries and rent and paying for life-saving treatment. And no one should avoid seeking coronavirus care because they are uninsured or afraid of the cost.

In Congress, I will fight to:

  • Protect and expand the Affordable Care Act. President Trump and Congressional Republicans have spent years trying to take health care away from families by gutting and repealing the ACA. Now, the ACA is one of the most important tools we have to fight and treat the coronavirus. I will work to build upon the ACA by bringing more competition into the health care exchanges, helping more people buy insurance on the exchanges, and increasing the tax credits families use to subsidize the cost of ACA plans.I support efforts to continue to expand Medicaid, including to help states provide care in response to the coronavirus. And I will protect people with preexisting conditions like diabetes, mental health, and substance use disorders so that no one is denied necessary treatment.
  • Provide Medicare to all who want it. Congress should create a public option, so that anyone who doesn’t have health insurance can buy into Medicare if they want to. This will expand people’s health insurance choices, while protecting access to employer-sponsored plans, including high-quality plans workers have bargained for as part of their compensation package.

    The coronavirus pandemic has caused millions of people to lose their jobs and their employer-sponsored health insurance. We cannot continue to tie health insurance to employment without providing greater protections—especially now, when it is vital that people receive coronavirus care.
  • Protect and expand the Affordable Care Act. President Trump and Congressional Republicans have spent years trying to take health care away from families by gutting and repealing the ACA. Now, the ACA is one of the most important tools we have to fight and treat the coronavirus. I will work to build upon the ACA by bringing more competition into the health care exchanges, helping more people buy insurance on the exchanges, and increasing the tax credits families use to subsidize the cost of ACA plans.I support efforts to continue to expand Medicaid, including to help states provide care in response to the coronavirus. And I will protect people with preexisting conditions like diabetes, mental health, and substance use disorders so that no one is denied necessary treatment.
  • Ban surprise billing. Often when Americans go to an in-network hospital, they unknowingly receive care from an out-of-network doctor—one who later charges them a massive, surprise medical bill. Outrageously, this includes patients seeking coronavirus treatment or tests, despite Congress’ efforts to require insurers to cover all COVID-19 testing. I will lead efforts in Congress to end surprise medical billing once and for all. We can ensure that providers are fairly compensated while also imposing strong consumer protections that increase transparency and reduce out-of-pocket costs.
  • Provide free COVID-19 treatment to all who need it. All coronavirus-related care should be covered at no cost to patients. Congress should require insurers to fully cover all care, including testing, diagnosis, preventative care, treatment, and associated fees and charges. And it should reimburse health care providers for delivering coronavirus treatment to the uninsured. We will all be safer and healthier if everyone is able to afford their copays and receive the health care they need without fear of cost.

Invest in minority and underserved communities.

South Jersey was already facing severe public health challenges before the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone should have equal access to quality, community health care—no matter who they are, where they live, their income, or the color of their skin.

In Congress, I will fight to:

  • Target funding to underserved populations. Crises often hit communities of color the hardest, and the coronavirus is no exception. Black and Hispanic New Jerseyans account for a disproportionate number of our state’s COVID-19 cases. This is due both to inequitable access to treatment and to the fact that many people of color have essential jobs across our economy and health system. We need to provide much better access to health care in low-income and minority communities—not only to respond to pandemics and other emergencies, but also to treat and prevent heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and other disparities that leave underserved populations at higher risk.
  • Prevent infant mortality and improve maternal health. Atlantic City has by far the highest infant mortality rate in the state: a child born to an Atlantic City family is nearly twice as likely as a child born in Newark to die before her first birthday. Congress needs to invest to ensure all women have early access to local, high-quality prenatal care, providing the federal support necessary to open more material medicine centers in communities like South Jersey. We also need to address racial bias throughout our health care system and provide states with greater resources to review and prevent maternal mortality.
  • Protect and support those in long-term care. The coronavirus has exposed and exacerbated America’s long-term care crisis. Roughly one-third of Americans who have died from COVID-19 resided in long-term care facilities. And even before the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus, most families struggled to pay for the nursing and home-health care they or their loved ones need. Congress must increase and expand access to long-term care benefits, while taking aggressive measures to ensure that all long-term care facilities are protecting residents and workers from the coronavirus.

Reduce prescription drug prices by holding pharmaceutical companies accountable.

Skyrocketing drug prices are crushing American families while large pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars in profits. I will stand up to drug and health insurance companies to reduce families’ out-of-pocket costs and expand access to life-saving care.  

In Congress, I will fight to:

  • Allow the government to negotiate for lower drug prices. Drug companies should not be able to set prices for medications without limit or negotiation. Congress must allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices—and expand those lower costs to families with private insurance. I support the Lower Drug Prices Now Act, which will save taxpayers $500 billion in drug costs over the next 10 years.
  • Stop pharmaceutical companies from limiting access to low-cost medications. Our generic drug system is broken. Too few low-cost generics are entering the market, often because pharmaceutical companies are able to block them. This has led to skyrocketing prices or shortages of generic drugs like insulin, EpiPens, and cancer treatments, even before the coronavirus crisis. We need to reform the generic drug market to get more generics into the marketplace more quickly. To prevent pharmaceutical monopolies from price-gouging, we should also set price caps on critical drugs like insulin. And we should strengthen the federal government’s role in the procurement process to ensure production of life-saving medications.
  • Provide universal access to a low-cost coronavirus vaccine. Congress must ensure that the federal government invests to quickly develop a vaccine and therapeutic treatments. And, once a vaccine and effective treatments are developed, every American must have equal access. I support efforts to set a reasonable price for an eventual vaccine and to provide an open license that allows it to be widely developed. We cannot allow pharmaceutical companies to limit care or reap enormous profits off the coronavirus crisis.

Expand our hospital and treatment capacity.

The U.S. has fewer hospital beds and physicians per capita than most other countries impacted by the coronavirus. This is due in part to failed and misguided cost-cutting measures that led cities and states close hospital beds, especially in rural areas. We need to immediately increase our hospital capacity, both to respond to COVID-19 and to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality care when they need it. 

In Congress, I will fight to:

  • Provide emergency funding. The coronavirus has overwhelmed our hospitals and health centers, underscoring how unprepared our health system is to respond to crisis. I am glad that Congress provided an initial surge of funding for our health care system, but far more resources will be needed to help our hospitals, community health centers, rural health centers, and other providers increase short- and long-term capacity.
  • Save our hospitals from Wall Street. American hospital ownership is highly concentrated, leading to higher costs, widespread closures, and substantially worse patient outcomes. And Wall Street has continued to close and consolidate hospitals—or hold them hostage—even during the current crisis. Congress must step in to save existing hospitals and allow them to rebuild capacity without interference from investors who put profits before patient care. 
  • Strengthen our medical supply chains. By consolidating and offshoring manufacturing, large corporations have greatly weakened our medical supply chains. As a result, we are now almost entirely dependent on China for most of our medicines and medical devices. And corporations have monopolized production of critical supplies like ventilators, perpetuating shortages and blocking new competitors from entering the marketplace.

    Allowing big corporations to undermine our health care system is dangerous and immoral. Congress must act to break up medical-equipment monopolies, ensure domestic production of vital medicines, and incentivize and reward companies that rebuild our manufacturing capacity here at home.

Protect America’s health care workers.

Our physicians, nurses, health care aides, and first responders have responded heroically to the coronavirus crisis, risking their own lives to save the lives of others. But thanks to our broken health care system and government inaction—and President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ refusal to take the coronavirus seriously—too many people are on the frontlines without the personal protective equipment and workplace policies they need to do their jobs. Protecting and supporting our health care workers must be our top priority.

In Congress, I will fight to:

  • Surge production of personal protective equipment (PPE). The federal government must play a strong role producing and distributing protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and gowns, as well as cleaning products and COVID-19 test kits. Far better coordination is also needed to ensure that states and local governments receive the equipment they need. And the federal government must use its authorities to ensure that existing PPE production goes to health care workers, especially those in the hardest-hit areas. We will be completely unable to respond to COVID-19 if our health care workers become sick and are unable to provide care.
  • Replenish the strategic national stockpile. The coronavirus response has already depleted the strategic national stockpile of emergency medical equipment. This dire situation was entirely avoidable, but the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans refused to prepare for crisis. Congress must provide the resources and oversight needed to build up a reserve of medical supplies and ensure that future administrations distribute these supplies in a fair, coordinated, and strategic way.
  • Impose strict pay and safety protections. Under President Trump, federal agencies have refused to strengthen occupational health and safety protections for health care workers responding to the coronavirus. And, because our health care system prioritizes profits over patients, essential medical workers are being furloughed or taking pay cuts in the middle of a pandemic. These cuts effectively punish workers for having to provide emergency and primary care instead of more expensive elective procedures, which make more money for their employers.

    Congress should provide additional funding to ensure that hospitals maintain staffing and pay. And it should direct the Department of Labor to put strong, mandatory workplace safety protections in place to reduce health care workers’ risk of exposure to coronavirus.

Fund a strong mental health response.

Nearly half of Americans say that stress or worry about the coronavirus pandemic has harmed their health. I have already put forward a comprehensive plan for revolutionizing mental health and substance abuse treatment in the United States. In addition to fulfilling that plan, I will fight in Congress to:

  • Provide emergency funding for mental health providers. The coronavirus has strained our mental health and substance abuse treatment system so severely that it is now at risk of collapse. Congress must make sure that providers have the resources they need to deliver essential care as the United States responds to and recovers from the epidemic.
  • Expand telemedicine and suicide-prevention services. All health insurance plans must cover telemedicine services at parity with in-person care, including mental health services. Unnecessary restrictions must be lifted so that thousands more qualified mental health and substance abuse treatment providers can provide telehealth services, including medication-assisted treatment. And, as I called for in my Mental Health and Addiction Care Plan, Congress must fully fund and implement the new 988 suicide prevention hotline to make it easier for more people to get emergency help.
  • Expand diversion programs. Our jails and prisons are already ill-equipped to provide care for people with mental health and substance use disorders. Now, they have also become hot spots for the coronavirus, putting both inmates and correctional staff at extreme risk. It is urgent that we screen everyone coming into contact with the justice system for mental health and substance use disorders in order to divert qualified individuals into mental health and addiction treatment.

Protect long-term public health.

President Trump and Congressional Republicans ignored the coronavirus threat for months, leaving America grossly and unnecessarily unprepared to respond to the pandemic. The same leadership vacuum that allowed coronavirus to spread in the U.S. will limit our ability to prevent, contain, and treat infectious diseases in the future. We must act immediately to strengthen our health care system and prepare it to handle future crises.

In Congress, I will fight to:

  • Fully fund our public health agencies. President Trump and Congressional Republicans have tried to cut billions of dollars from health care agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Health and Human Services (HHS). We need to fully fund these agencies, including programs to ensure they have the infrastructure necessary to respond to pandemics or natural disasters.
  • Invest in basic science. Congress must boost funding for medical science and innovation, providing more resources for vaccine development, therapeutic treatment research, and the search for cures to leading causes of death like Alzheimer’s and cancer.

We can afford better health care.

President Trump and Congressional Republicans have provided trillions of dollars in giveaways to giant corporations and the wealthiest Americans in recent years. That includes a new $170 billion dollar tax break for wealthy real estate investors that was tucked into the latest coronavirus response act. By restoring the corporate tax rate and making other long-overdue reforms, we can make the investments we need provide everyone access to high-quality, affordable health care.

More importantly, we cannot afford to maintain the health care system we have. The coronavirus has uncovered enormous hidden costs, chief among them an unpreparedness that has brought America into what we hope will be a short but deep economic crisis. Fixing our broken health care system will save lives and protect our economy from future disruptions. It is more important than ever that Congress act to reform and strengthen it.