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Van Hollen: Consider human impact of health reform

Health care is one of the most personal and consequential issues that Congress tackles, as it touches every single family in our county. In the heated debate about the best way to improve our health care system, some in Washington have lost sight of the human consequences of the actions we take here. That's why it's so important for lawmakers to hear from the people they represent about the impacts of Congress' actions.

One of the thousands of constituents I've heard from is Katie from Westminster, who has a 2-year-old daughter who needs constant monitoring and care for her bone marrow and heart diseases. For Katie, maintaining access to affordable health care is a matter of life or death for her daughter, and she's worried about what the future holds.

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Katie is able to provide health insurance for her daughter through her employer — and because of the Affordable Care Act, her daughter cannot be denied coverage for her pre-existing conditions. With this new plan that's being rushed through the Senate, her daughter's health care would be in jeopardy if Katie were to change jobs, and she could face higher costs and less coverage once she reaches adulthood.

There are ways we can and should improve our health insurance system, chief among them is increasing choice and affordability on the state-run exchanges. But the bill — written in secret without a single public hearing — doesn't even come close to making care more accessible or affordable. In fact, it would decimate the insurance market and leave millions more Americans without insurance. It dismantles much of our existing health care system without offering a viable alternative. Simply put, it would have catastrophic consequences for Katie's daughter and millions of other Marylanders.

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Katie is already struggling financially, juggling expenses for medicines, co-pays, and transportation to medical appointments for her daughter. It doesn't make any sense to ask people like Katie to pay more, while giving a tax break to special interests.

I stand ready to discuss ideas to improve our health care system — as long as the common goal is to increase access and affordability of care for Marylanders. But the plan Senate Republicans put forward fails that basic test. More people need to hear stories like Katie's, and I stand with her and every Marylander who wants to improve our health care system — not destroy it.

Chris Van Hollen is a Democrat representing Maryland in the U.S. Senate.

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