Congress must do its part

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As we slowly begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, I fear we are heading for another health crisis that will devastate working families in New Jersey. But this crisis is preventable – and only Congress can prevent it from happening.

The US bailout, which was enacted last year, was a game-changer for Americans. It meant that during a critical time for many, families no longer needed to make impossible decisions like choosing between quality medical coverage or putting food on the table. Thanks to the AmericanRescue Plan, millions of Americans – including more than 280,000 New Jersey residents – now have access to affordable, quality healthcare coverage. Families are now saving about $2,400 a year on their health insurance thanks to premium savings made possible by the American Rescue Plan.

Unfortunately, these savings are in jeopardy. If Congress doesn’t act soon, the expansive tax credits that are finally making health care affordable for so many will expire by the end of the year, and premiums will rise dramatically as a result. For many New Jersey families, this will mean their access to affordable health care and coverage will also disappear.

This year, a record 324,266 New Jersey residents purchased coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. An overwhelming majority – 86% of those listed on the market – receive tax credits to help make this health care coverage more affordable. If that aid is allowed to expire, health care costs will skyrocket and 84,000 New Jersey residents will lose coverage.

It is simply unacceptable.

The pandemic has brought to light the urgent need for quality, accessible health care for all Americans, regardless of income. We can no longer afford to live in a world where only some people have access to health care while others do not. The assistance provided by the American Rescue Plan has been crucial in helping us rebuild after the pandemic, and it is crucial in closing the gap by giving all families the equal opportunity to live healthy lives and access to the care they need.

If Congress fails to take action and the US bailout’s enhanced premium tax credits expire, the impact will be devastating. Countless residents and constituents have benefited from this assistance.

Our community was able to afford coverage for the first time with these tax credits and people will see their premiums increase significantly if they expire.

That’s why last November, my Congressman, Rep. Bill Pascrell, and House Democrats voted to extend these tax credits. Senate Democrats must act quickly and vote to extend the U.S. bailout’s enhanced tax credits.

We cannot afford to go back, especially as we rebuild and recover from this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Hard-working families in our state and country rely on this help to stay healthy. All New Jerseyans deserve access to affordable coverage and quality care. We cannot let them down.

André Sayegh is the mayor of Paterson, New Jersey.

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