The Affordable Care Act needs to be strengthened, not repealed. Competitiveness in the insurance market – including public option plans – and allowing American over 50 to buy into Medicare are essential steps.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a huge step forward for healthcare in the United States. Through the ACA, millions of Americans were able to gain health coverage, including those previously barred from such coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

From an economic standpoint, the ACA was also effective at slowing the skyrocketing cost of healthcare in the United States, which represented a looming economic crisis. Repeated Republican attempts to roll back the advances made by the ACA by repealing with no real plan to replace it are unacceptable. I will stand up and protect the ACA to ensure continued access to quality healthcare.

Of course, like any sweeping new program, the ACA is not perfect, and implementation came with a host of unintended consequences. While the ACA was a great first step in expanding access to healthcare for everyone, millions of Americans remain uninsured. I will work to meet these challenges by addressing the unintended consequences of the ACA while working to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare so that we can all get the healthcare we need.

As the national debate over healthcare continues to rage, we must understand that insurance is only one piece of the healthcare system. The rest includes hospital systems, doctors and allied health, pharmacists, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers, and public research and development. Much of this system is not competitive, which drives up costs and lowers access. We must focus on the entire system if we are going to lower costs and increase access to care.

We must work with states to remove unnecessary regulations that keep healthcare professionals from delivering the care that they are trained to deliver. For example, in many states, nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants cannot open their own practice even though they deliver the same level of care at a lower price for basic medical services and screenings. We can also make it easier for Americans to purchase non-narcotic prescription medicines by allowing pharmacists to prescribe these medications without having to take time off from work to go in for a doctor’s visit.

In some parts of the country, there is only one healthcare system for 100-miles in any direction and only one insurer on the exchanges. This lack of competition drives up prices and leads to poorer care. We can increase competition in these cases by providing public options, breaking up healthcare monopolies, and adding access to competitors through innovative technologies such as telemedicine.

Finally, many Americans would like to retire before they are eligible for Medicare, but may not be able to because of the high cost of private insurance. We need to allow Americans the option to buy into Medicare starting at age 50.

Womens’ Health

A woman’s healthcare decisions should be made in private between her, her family, and her medical caregiver. I support methods like those in Colorado where they lowered their abortion rate by nearly 50% by providing teens with comprehensive sex education and access to contraceptives. The program also lowered teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) while saving tens of millions of dollars.