As our nation marks the eighth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, Congress again has an opportunity to show a bipartisan commitment to health care by lowering costs, controlling premiums and expanding coverage. These are things that people across both political parties desire.

Yet, on the March 23 deadline for passing a budget that includes measures to achieve these goals, it’s becoming clear that partisan attacks on the ACA are a higher priority to lawmakers than the well-being of their constituents, whom they are called to serve.

Both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures remind us that one of the primary roles and responsibilities of government is to provide for the common good. When we fail to do so, all suffer. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

NO FOLLOW-THROUGH ON PROMISES

In the past, Mainers, including people of faith, have looked to Sen. Susan Collins for leadership to pass a bill that meets critical needs of the sick and those who live in poverty. Last year, she stood up for all Maine constituents by refusing to vote in favor of bills that would repeal the ACA and cause irreparable harm to Medicaid – and Mainers applauded. But then she supported the unjust and immoral tax bill that will likely cause the very damage to health care that she originally said she opposed.

The false promise made by conservative leaders that the damage would be addressed at some future point through market stabilization is insufficient ground upon which to stand. By not acting now to support legislation that protects and expands health coverage for Mainers, Sen. Collins fails to heed the prophetic warning of Martin Luther King Jr. and others before him: “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

Maine voters were skeptical for good reason: The recent tax plan gave monumental tax breaks to multinational corporations, and paid for those breaks with a partial repeal of the ACA that will leave 3 million more people uninsured and raise premiums for some families by as much as $2,000 annually, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis. The tax bill also raised the deficit by $1.5 trillion for tax breaks that will force cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, education and countless public services. President Trump’s budget proposal lays out these cuts, many of which will disproportionately hurt Maine’s aging and rural communities.

STABILIZATION PACKAGE FALLS SHORT

This week, Sen. Collins and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee proposed legislation that does not address the harm created by the partial repeal of the ACA in the tax bill. In fact, two new analyses from the CBO show that this legislation would increase both the number of uninsured people and costs for lower-income consumers, as well as reduce the subsidies that help them afford insurance. The proposal also fails to address threats posed by the Trump administration that would compromise consumer protections, allow insurers to charge higher fees to the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions and selectively refuse to offer essential health benefits like maternity care, mental health services and prescriptions.

Sen. Collins must hold her fellow Republican leaders accountable and engage in a bipartisan effort to protect healthcare through a robust stabilization package.

As a pastor and longtime constituent of Sen. Collins, I’m concerned. At a moment when her leadership could make a real difference for people from all walks of life, not just in our state but also throughout our country, it appears that once again she is caving to partisan gamesmanship. It’s not easy to keep promises, particularly for politicians – but Sen. Collins will find it harder to face her constituents in good conscience if she breaks this one.

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