By Helen Butler
I’ve dedicated much of my life to standing at the forefront of the civil rights movement and advocating for equity and justice in every facet of our society. I’ve fought and will continue to fight for the millions of Americans that feel as if they’ve never had a voice. Today, I’m proud to be the Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, where I fight on behalf of Georgians for a wide array of issues — including one of the most important matters in America today: affordable, accessible health care for all.
Inadequate access to affordable health care is one of the greatest single barriers to the success of our communities today, and I’m committed to working with other local, state and national leaders to make this a top priority.
Over the past two years, lower-income and historically disadvantaged communities have experienced disproportionate hardships during the pandemic. In addition to struggling with higher prices for everyday necessities, affordable health care has become a particularly poignant issue for many Georgians. We must have more solutions on the table to address access to affordable health care so we can set our communities up for success and help more people live long, healthy, productive lives.
Last year, when the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was passed by Congress, it included a program that eased health care burdens for millions of Americans. Health care tax credits provided Georgians with financial relief to better afford health insurance. Thanks to this expansion, more than 127,000 of our state’s residents became newly eligible for relief to help them pay for health care.
These subsidies are set to expire at the end of the year. If Congress lets this happen, the cost of premiums will skyrocket for thousands of state residents. This will not only strip thousands of Georgians of their opportunity to purchase affordable coverage, but it would also put the health of our entire state — and country — at risk if millions are suddenly unable to afford doctor’s visits and necessary health treatments.
I grew up in Morgan County, Georgia, and I want every community in this state to regain and maintain our health and safety as we continue to recover from the pandemic. Ensuring that everyone has access to health care is an important step toward achieving this goal. Unfortunately, the voices of historically underprivileged communities are often left unheard, and their needs are placed on the back burner. Health care subsidies help people in these communities regain their footing, join the insurance marketplace and access affordable health plans. Nearly half of individuals currently using subsidies have incomes between 1 and 1.5 times the poverty level. Without these subsidies, this population could lose their chance to purchase affordable coverage.
Access to health care means people won’t have to choose to skip essential care if they cannot afford it. According to a December 2021 Gallup poll, “Nearly one-third of Americans report not seeking treatment for a health problem in the prior three months due to its cost” — a figure that alarmingly tripled from 10% in March to 30% in October of last year. Simply put, this is unacceptable, and no one should have to forgo health care treatment because of their financial situation. It’s clear that the cost of health care remains a barrier for far too many Americans — a barrier that we can begin to eliminate by making health insurance subsidies permanent.
Thousands of Georgians’ lives would be improved if Congress makes health insurance tax credits permanent. When more people are assured that they have the financial means to cover their health-related needs, families can prosper — and those already struggling to make ends meet can have the peace of mind that affording health care is one less obstacle on their plate.
I’m committed to this issue and committed to fighting for greater equity and justice in our health care system. Our U.S. Senators, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, are essential allies in this battle who must also continue serving as strong supporters of permanent subsidies. Securing this would be a substantial step forward for all of our Georgia communities, especially those hit hardest during these turbulent times.
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