As an Obama administration alum charged with expanding access to health care throughout the country, I believe strongly that high-quality affordable health care must be available to all of our residents as a matter of right, not privilege.

There are many in DC who are not offered employer-sponsored coverage, so the individual and small group markets are vitally important. DC Health Link, authorized under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), recognizes this important population and provides high-quality coverage options to those unable to receive such benefits through work. This has given residents the flexibility to start small businesses, transition to self-employment, or take jobs in positions that may have previously not offered high-quality health care.  It has also allowed many in DC to afford health insurance for the first time, and access preventive services and other necessary treatments. DC Health Link protects families and increases employment opportunities and workforce mobility, but we must not lose sight of the fact that this program could be drastically cut or eliminated if the US Congress is able to fulfill its promise to repeal the ACA.

We need leadership that is capable of understanding the risks to this market and crafting solutions at the city level to provide certainty and keep our residents from having their access to health care determined by the lowest congressional denominator.

In addition to the national uncertainty, DC is facing a health care crisis of its own.  With the closure of multiple hospitals and a shortage of providers, particularly those providing women’s health services and maternal care, it has become increasingly difficult to access emergency and preventive care. Sometimes referred to as “maternity care deserts,” these low-income neighborhoods no longer provide mothers with the resources and services they need to take care of themselves and their babies. As a result, low-income pregnant women in Southeast DC are at an alarmingly high risk of having a pregnancy-related death. This is unacceptable.

DC must act to reopen facilities that have closed, and ensure they are a source of safe, high quality care.  I will fight to protect and expand the coverage options currently available to everyone in DC, regardless of income or job status, and provide families and workers with the peace of mind that comes with knowing their access to care isn’t dependent on the whims of Congress.