I began my congressional exploratory committee with an open mind and a lot of questions about what I’d hear from the hardworking folks who make this part of Texas home.
My questions were mostly simple ones: What is working and what isn’t? What keeps you up at night? What are your fears, your hopes and your goals for our country?
The voters in the 23rd Congressional District are as diverse as the terrain. The issues that shape the lives of families living here can’t be boiled down or simplified into a handful of talking points, but I’ve heard one issue wherever I go: People are scared about their health care. People are clear about wanting real solutions that repair what’s broken in our current health care system and build on what’s working.
In public comments, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd claimed my support for the Affordable Care Act was the deciding factor in our race. However, after voting nine times to repeal and insisting that Washington Republicans “have a plan,” Mr. Hurd has apparently changed his tune midsong.
Despite claiming to oppose the ACA, Mr. Hurd supported it as I had.
The truth is, Will Hurd and his Washington friends never had a “plan.” It was all just talk.
Here at home, Mr. Hurd saw what I have seen. Rural and small-town folks trying to save their local hospitals, people with serious illnesses like cancer or diabetes trying to hold on to their health care, everyday parents worried about taking care of their kids, and a huge backlash against Washington.
Mr. Hurd practices the politics of empty promises. It is long past time to stop the politics and fix the problems. People with pre-existing conditions, Americans struggling to make ends meet, and small businesses can’t sit by and wait as Donald Trump and his allies in Congress point fingers and make lame excuses. For premiums to drop, we need stability in the marketplace. People must know that there really is a plan — and they must know what’s in it.
Let’s have a transparent process, with congressional town halls and honest feedback from voters. That is what Texans need and what Americans want.
If Will Hurd and Washington Republicans really “have a plan” as Mr. Hurd said on TV, let’s see it. The Republicans’ closed-door meetings designed to hide the “plan” from the world only serve to scare people who could lose their coverage.
The decisions Congress makes about our health care will impact us now and for decades to come. It shouldn’t be about politics. It must be about developing a plan that works for everyone and keeps our costs down. After all, most of us know someone who has had cancer, diabetes or some other serious illness.
Here are the principles I believe in for a health care plan that works for our families:
- Health care must be affordable and available to more Americans, without discriminating against those with preexisting conditions.
- Medicare and Medicaid must be strengthened and defended.
- Veterans must be provided the support they’ve earned.
- Premiums must be kept low for small businesses so they can continue to grow. Small businesses are, after all, where most of us work.
- And finally, there must be support for preventative care so that the ER does not become the first line of defense.
It’s time to put aside politics and work together, across party lines, to fix the parts of our current health care system that are broken and build on what is working. This won’t be easy — nothing important ever is. But it’s time for our representatives to roll up their sleeves, show some courage and leadership, and deliver for our families.
Pete Gallego is a former U.S. representative who unsuccessfully ran against Rep. Will Hurd in the last election for the 23rd Congressional District.