It’s been two years since the first COVID-19 case was found in the United States. With over 800,000 Americans lost to the virus, our country will never be the same. However, this moment has led to a refocusing on what is most important: our community’s health and well-being.
I was honored to be elected to Congress this April to represent the people of southeast Louisiana. While I am one of the newest members, it’s a point of pride that during the first few months of my tenure I was able to vote for some of the most transformative shifts in healthcare policy since the Affordable Care Act.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought telehealth services into the spotlight, a program that has been especially important for seniors. However, inequitable access to affordable broadband also took center stage as more people stayed home and moved online.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, for which I was proud to vote, became law in November. This Infrastructure Law puts over $114 billion into expanding and improving broadband, laying fiber, and continuing the Emergency Broadband Benefit to provide low-cost internet access.
Additionally, the Infrastructure Law provides the largest ever investment in clean drinking water, by replacing lead pipes and service lines, and shoring up our water management systems for the long-term.
However, the biggest vote I have taken for healthcare and for our nation’s seniors was for the President’s Build Back Better Act. This wide-ranging bill includes several different measures that would transform our nation’s healthcare system for the better.
One such programs will lower the cost of prescription drugs and insulin. Twenty-five percent of Americans who take prescription drugs struggle to afford them. By allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs, we take the power away from Big Pharma, and lower the cost of life-saving medicine. President Biden’s plan caps the amount that seniors on Medicare would spend on prescription drugs each year at $2,000 a year.
Around 13% of Louisiana adults are diagnosed with diabetes, and access to insulin can mean life or death. Louisianans typically pay between $175-$300 in out-of-pocket costs every month, but the Build Back Better Act would cap out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $35 a month starting in 2023. These policies are gamechangers for seniors, especially those on fixed incomes.
Build Back Better also would provide $150 billion in investments in home- and community-based services, establish a new health insurance affordability fund, close the Medicaid coverage gap, and expand Medicare to include hearing care coverage.
Mental healthcare is healthcare and Build Back Better includes millions to support the behavioral health needs of family caregivers, those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and provides mobile crisis intervention services at the state level.
Those are just some of the metamorphic changes for healthcare in Build Back Better. Just one of these policies would be a success for my constituents and all Americans. Together, they are groundbreaking.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is to value our health, our loved ones, and life’s special moments. It is my sincere hope that Congress will start 2022 off right by prioritizing healthcare and passing Build Back Better.
The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.