As Mayor of a city with a high rate of poverty, it is my responsibility to advocate for our most vulnerable residents. This includes those who do not have access to quality health care.
For too long, our community has endured a high rate of uninsured residents. In 2013, before we launched a campaign to enroll uninsured residents through the Affordable Care Act, that rate stood at 26 percent. These were people who, when they got sick, had to wait until their symptoms were unbearable before they sought treatment. Many ended up in the emergency rooms. Some who did not seek treatment for serious illnesses died. Preventative health care was out of the question.
Since 2013, with leadership from Healthy Communities Wyandotte and the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, we were able to enroll 6,000 households in health insurance. This cut our rate of uninsured residents to 14 percent, the largest reduction of its kind in Kansas. And it meant that many people in our community could enjoy health security— and financial security—for the first time in their lives.
We’re not alone in signing up more residents for quality health care. In Johnson County, more than 26,000 households received insurance through the ACA.
Sadly, Congress appears headed toward repealing the ACA. These households now stand to lose their ACA insurance and the essential health benefits that come with it. These benefits include: insuring children until the age of 26; insuring people with pre-existing conditions; the elimination of lifetime and annual limits; coverage for pregnancy and breast cancer screenings; and coverage for preventative services at no additional cost.
On Feb. 22, I joined mayors across the country for a “Day of Action” to support the many positive benefits the ACA has provided. I used my office on that day to advocate for those in our community whose health insurance is at risk.
But rather than limit our efforts to a single day, I hosted an event where health advocates gathered to launch a letter-writing campaign to make it easy for our residents to contact their representatives in Kansas’s Third Congressional District. If you live in that district (that includes all of you in Johnson County!), I urge you to follow this link and find out more about how you can participate in the campaign.
As you’ll see, our health advocates will be collecting those letters through March 17. Once they do, I will deliver those letters personally to the offices of Sen. Pat Roberts, Sen. Jerry Moran, and Rep. Kevin Yoder.
Those of us who support the ACA have seen the impact it has had on our communities. We know that it has improved thousands of lives here in Wyandotte and millions across the country. We know that it can save lives. Please join me in raising your voice to support the ACA!