Every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care, and our country should aspire to a system in which health insurance coverage is universal. While the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) has expanded coverage to millions more Americans, contributing to record high rates of coverage in San Diego County, our work does not end there. I’m working on a plan with Republicans and Democrats to lower premiums and deductibles, improve quality of care, and stabilize the individual insurance markets — all to ensure that health insurance is more affordable for everyone and we never return to a system where people are denied care due to pre-existing conditions or lose their homes and savings to medical bill bankruptcies.
The Affordable Care Act
Health care in America needs to be accessible and affordable for everyone. While the Affordable Care Act was a crucial step in fixing decades-old problems within our health care system, premiums and deductibles continue to rise, and the individual insurance markets are gripped with uncertainty. The solution to these problems lies not in abolishing the protections on which millions of Americans have come to rely, but in strengthening the law to improve the quality and lower the cost of care for those unable to benefit from the ACA. I’ve proposed several pieces of bipartisan legislation aimed at repairing the ACA, and I’ll continue to condemn any attempts to repeal the law and pull the rug out from under American families.
In July 2017, I laid out my plan to quell uncertainty and drive costs down. As part of this plan, I urged Congress to commit Cost-Sharing Reduction Subsidies (CSRs) to long-term funding, which will reduce out-of-pocket health care costs for hardworking American families. Additionally, Congress should act to protect insurers against the costliest medical claims, and create incentives to bring healthy people into the insurance pool. In health insurance markets, certainty is what drives costs down, and the Trump administration’s decisions to repeal the individual mandate and stop defending the ACA in court contribute to the type of uncertainty that will cause premiums and deductibles to rise.
I was not a member of Congress when it passed the ACA, but since then, I have voted to keep the promise that if you like your plan, you can keep it. I also voted to make sure individuals and families are given the same extension on enrollment that President Trump gave to businesses. During the 116th Congress, cosponsored the Protect Medical Innovation Act, a bipartisan bill to repeal the medical device excise tax in the ACA. Here in San Diego, we are acutely aware of the potential for this tax to stifle innovation in our biotech industry, which plays such a central role in our economy. In each case, that’s meant voting against my own party to make sure that we end up with the best system possible for both individuals and employers. I personally have refused to take taxpayer-subsidized health care because I believe it’s wrong for members of Congress to get subsidized health care while others are struggling to afford it.
While there is still work to do to fix the ACA, the law offers real benefits to San Diegans. For example, it prevents insurance companies from denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition. It also lets adult children stay on their parent’s health care plan until they’re 26 – a change that helps families with kids in college or who are starting their first job. These are the kinds of improvements that we would lose if we heeded the misguided calls to “repeal Obamacare.” And we can’t go back to the days when too many people got their health care in the emergency room and went bankrupt trying to pay for medical bills.
Contraception and Reproductive Choice
Unbelievably, some in Congress still want to battle over reproductive choice and access to contraception. Those wars were fought and won decades ago, and it is embarrassing and shameful that they continue to be debated. I’m proud of my 100% rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and I strongly favor reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions in consultation with her doctor. My wife and I have a long history of supporting Planned Parenthood, and I will always stand up for the right of women to make their own health care decisions. In Congress, I am a forceful advocate for women’s access to reproductive healthcare and a woman’s right to choose, and I will continue as long as these battles persist.
You can read more about my record on Equal Rights issues here.
San Diego’s Health Care Ecosystem
San Diego’s technology industry is leading the way in creating more cost-effective ways to deliver high-quality health care. I introduced the Health Savings Through Technology Act to integrate digital health into Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, and military care while increasing the use of wireless health information technologies. By taking advantage of the innovation coming out of San Diego, we can make health care cheaper to provide. In 2018, the San Diego-based Scripps Research Institute landed a deal with a major pharmaceutical company for its improved immune therapy use for treating cancer. These partnerships have the potential to bolster San Diego’s economy and improve the lives of millions of people around the world. We need more policies that encourage such innovation.
I’ve voted to increase research that accelerates the development of clinical trials to treat pediatric diseases, and for funding for programs that address the physician shortage. I’ve supported legislation to make our prescription drug system safer for consumers, and to protect the National Institutes of Health from dangerous budget cuts through sequestration. I’ve also helped passed a bill to incentivize the use of non-opioid painkillers for pain management where opioids might otherwise be prescribed.
Community health centers also play a critical role in San Diego by providing quality medical and mental health care to millions of San Diegans every year. In the FY20 appropriations, I supported the highest level of funding to improve access to comprehensive and evidence-based mental health and addiction care, securing the requested funding level of $150,000,000 for the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics Expansion Grants.
I will continue to be an active and strong advocate for health care reform – for patients, for hospitals, and for medical professionals. I know how important reliable and affordable health care is, and the frustration of dealing with a system full of irrationalities and skewed economic incentives. Everyone is eager for more ways to improve our health care system, and I will continue to work to make sure doctors, patients, and health care institutions all have a say in how we move forward. That’s always been my approach, and that’s the approach I’ll continue to take as your representative in Congress.
Protecting Access to Care During COVID-19
Drug shortages under normal circumstances result in significant strain throughout our healthcare system—from patients to hospitals and physicians. The health emergency presented by COVID-19 has exacerbated these problems and caused adverse reactions on global drug supply chains. In the 116th Congress, I introduced the bipartisan Preventing Drug Shortages Act, which would help address the critical issue of drug shortages that affect the quality of care patients receive across the country. The bill became law as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which marked the third congressional package providing relief for the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this unprecedented pandemic, the last thing Americans should have to worry about is losing access to affordable and reliable health care. I introduced legislation to help mitigate the drastic health care premium increases caused by the unanticipated surge in medical care costs due to the pandemic. The Stop Health Premium Spikes Act became law as part of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes) Act in May 2020.