Christy Paulsell of Covington, left, gets her message across with a T-shirt during a town hall meeting Wednesday, May 31, 2017, at the at the St. Tammany Parish School Board administrative complex in Covington. 'I'm worried they'll end Medicaid expansion,' said Paulsell, who cares for her daughter, P.J. Paulsell, 31, since the daughter was severely injured in a 2005 motorcycle accident. 'I'll be heartbroken if we lose care and not be able to keep her at home.' Most of the questions during the town hall centered around health care. More than 100 people were turned away due to the limited seating capacity.

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

As a mother, New Orleanian and restaurant manager, Wendy didn’t have health insurance through her job. Under Medicaid expansion, she got covered and was subsequently diagnosed with a thyroid condition. She’s now on medication, managing her condition, and is healthier, feeling better and losing weight. She states, “My experience has been everything that was promised, which I never would have believed was possible.”

Wendy’s story is but one of over half a million Louisianans and 23 million individuals nationwide at risk of losing access to affordable health care should Congress pass the Affordable Health Care Act, or similar legislation being crafted in the U.S. Senate.

When people don’t get the care they need, they get sicker and end up in the hospital. They miss work and may be saddled with unmanageable medical debt. It’s a downward spiral that can doom people to sickness or death and their families to financial ruin and poverty.

Congress is embarking on a radical, unprecedented plan to strip away health coverage for millions of families and deny them life-saving treatment. Regardless of where Louisianans get their coverage, we’re better off today. Right now, the uninsured rate is down to 12.5 percent here in Louisiana and 8.6 percent nationwide — the lowest in U.S. history. In fact, enrollment numbers demonstrate a strong commitment — and need — from the American public to the marketplace and Medicaid expansion.

The gains we’ve made must be maintained, and we’ve seen no evidence of a replacement plan that provides better, more affordable coverage and consumer protections than those we have now.

Instead of undermining health care and threatening the financial and health security of millions, our elected officials should listen to the voices of people like Wendy. While certain aspects of the current health care law do need to be fixed, taking away health insurance coverage is not the solution. Louisianans deserve the peace of mind and personal well-being that comes with access to affordable health care and the consumer protections currently established. We must continue to move forward, not backward.

We demand real solutions to boost and fund enrollment efforts, expand access to coverage and address the underlying cost drivers of health care. We must apply pressure to Congress at this critical time — holding them accountable for the decisions they will make regarding the future of Louisiana’s health.

Voting for any legislation that would result in cutting health insurance coverage and reducing benefits will do incredible harm to community members, and is the opposite of serving and protecting the American people. I urge the Louisiana congressional delegation to oppose any legislation that would leave millions without coverage and disrupt the insurance market. Lives are at stake. Stand up for what is right.

Susan Todd

director, 504Healthnet

New Orleans