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10.17.2019 / Press Release

Statement: America Has Lost Not a Politician, but a Steadfast Patron for Health Care and Social Justice

Washington, D.C. – Families USA executive director Frederick Isasi released the following statement regarding the passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

“We are deeply saddened that Rep. Elijah Cummings has passed away. He was an unswerving champion for civil and human rights and the epitome of an individual who put people before politics.

Rep. Cummings decided as a sixth-grader that he would commit his life to law and helping people. He was a proud and undaunted advocate for social and racial justice and his dedication to ensuring a level playing field for marginalized and vulnerable people was exemplary. A member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, during a May 2019 commencement speech at Baltimore’s Morgan State University, he told the graduates, ‘You are better and more valuable to our country because of the obstacles you’ve overcome.’

Rep. Cummings had many accomplishments over his storied career. Families USA heralds his commitment to ensure and protect access to high-quality, affordable health care for America’s families. He understood that access and equity are essential to achieving health care justice for all.

Last July, Cummings — who chaired the House Oversight Committee — convened a hearing to discuss the importance of protecting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid coverage for our nation’s families. He was deeply concerned that a repeal of the health care law would strand families without access to the critical health care services the law provides, and he used that hearing to let consumers share their very personal health care journeys. As someone who battled in his own health, Rep. Cummings spoke passionately about how experiencing a serious illness was a stark reminder of the gift of good health.

Rep. Cummings also led congressional efforts to expand access to oral health care for all families. His fight intensified more than a decade ago when Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Marylander, died from an untreated tooth infection. On an anniversary of Driver’s death, Cummings told his fellow members of Congress, ‘My heart is heavy today, as it is every year at this time…I am humbled, however, that God has turned the pain of Deamonte’s death into a passion. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful that I can use my platform to help families like Deamonte’s who cannot help themselves.’ Because of his work, oral health care was expanded nationally as well to the families he represented in Maryland.

We take this moment to honor his bright legacy and urge everyone — specifically those who hold elected office — to carry it on.”