As the USA wages a life and death battle against the skyrocketing spread of novel coronavirus, the critical importance of preserving Obamacare is more relevant today than ever. This is particularly true as more litigation to cripple the landmark law is pending at the Supreme Court.
In case you missed it, March 23, 2020 marked the 10-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare. The ACA signifies one of the most groundbreaking and comprehensive healthcare laws in American history, along with Medicare and Medicaid.
Millions of Americans rely on Obamacare to mitigate major medical ailments for which they previously lacked affordable healthcare.
It was one decade ago this week when President Obama heroically signed the ACA into law. And let’s face it: America has been better off because of the sweeping statute, especially now as we fight a global pandemic.
Obamacare finally provided broad-based healthcare coverage to tens of millions of vulnerable Americans who had been locked out of the private system because of their socioeconomic status or preexisting conditions.
Enactment of the ACA was Obama’s signature legislative achievement, following decades of failed efforts to provide health security to vulnerable Americans.
Despite its success, Obamacare remains the target of relentless partisan attacks and endless litigation. Republicans have done everything possible to kill Obamacare or eliminate significant parts of it.
But why do conservative politicians and other opponents of Obamacare still seek to eliminate access to affordable healthcare for millions of previously uninsured Americans, including middle class working families whom the GOP and President Trump purport to represent?
The answer: there is no good answer for Republican recalcitrance.
The likely explanations for Republicans’ never-ending war on Obamacare are twofold (or more):
- To discredit Barack Obama as the duly elected first African American president in U.S. history.
- To payback the powerful insurance and pharmaceutical industries who bankroll GOP campaign coffers.
Thus as we observe the 10-year anniversary of Obamacare, it’s worth looking beyond partisan politics to consider its moral implications, in addition to assessing the practical impact for millions of low-income and indigent Americans.
Let’s likewise remember that some lower-middle-class Americans also lacked affordable health insurance prior to Obamacare. These hard-working and patriotic taxpayers had also been shut out of the private healthcare system for decades because of corporate greed.
Health security should be considered a fundamental freedom for every American, regardless of their underlying medical conditions, socioeconomic status or other discriminatory factors.
Ten years ago today, I signed the Affordable Care Act into law. It protected preexisting conditions, cut the uninsured rate in half, and lots more. But it’s still under political attack right when we need care the most. We have to protect it, build on it, until we cover everyone. pic.twitter.com/zz2v3DzMgq
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 23, 2020
Regardless of politics and policy, you should consider the moral reasons why access to affordable healthcare is a basic human right in the 21st century high-tech Information Age.
The core American values of fundamental fairness and equality are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
With the coronavirus pandemic plaguing the world, access to healthcare in the world’s most prominent democracy is central to the attainment of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — which is impossible for those who are gravely ill, or dead, based on no affordable healthcare coverage.
America is still the greatest nation on the planet because of our noble principles of safeguarding civil and human rights for all citizens.
Chief among these safeguards is not only the nation’s collective health and wellness, but also that of each individual.
That’s why healthcare access should never be restricted to only the rich and privileged ruling class, which is commonplace from autocratic and communist countries to banana republics across the globe.
Yet prior to Obamacare, tens of millions of Americans were deprived of basic healthcare, including those with severe and chronic illness. This scarcity of health security had been an American tragedy for too long.
For those downtrodden Americans without healthcare, the ACA represented the very freedom necessary to live an independent and fruitful life. To wit:
- Freedom to see a doctor.
- Freedom to receive life-saving medical treatment.
- Freedom from the stranglehold of greed and corruption by powerful corporate interests.
Opponents of Obamacare, who claim it’s a personal infringement, should first think about all the downtrodden American taxpayers forced to live in despair for decades with no healthcare availability.
Yet some detractors of Obamacare still claim that their individual and constitutional rights are being trampled upon at the expense of another government mandate, one for which they don’t want to pay.
But I’ll bet those vacuous voices who continue to castigate Obamacare have always enjoyed generous health benefits. Let’s also remember that medical care for the uninsured, including expensive hospital visits, is reflected in inflated prices and premiums for the rest of the insured population.
We all pay for healthcare, or lack thereof, in one way or another.
Prior to Obamacare, steep annual premium hikes were the norm despite a lackluster economy slowly rebounding from The Great Recession.
Thus ask yourself a few pertinent questions:
- What’s wrong with the wealthiest Americans — the so-called “one percent” or “super rich” — paying their fair share for the greater good?
- Why should the richest country in the world allow healthcare for only the richest among us, while simultaneously lining the pockets of the giant insurance and pharmaceutical industries?
- Do the previously swelling ranks of uninsured and under-insured Americans agree that access to affordable healthcare is a personal infringement our nation can do without?
As The New York Times notes (article above):
- “With the coronavirus, a new Supreme Court case and a blistering election debate, the Affordable Care Act is facing challenges as never before.”
- “The law did not achieve universal coverage, but it brought about a historic drop in the number of Americans without health insurance.”
- “The largest coverage gains under the A.C.A. have been among Hispanic, black and Asian patients — many of the groups that had the highest uninsured rates before the law, the Kaiser Family Foundation found.”
- “Now, as the coronavirus sweeps through the country, many state officials are relying on the Affordable Care Act to provide health coverage for residents who have none.”
Denying affordable healthcare to citizens who need it most is both economically irresponsible and morally indefensible for the collective health of America.
America has always had an inherent responsibility to provide for the general welfare of its citizens.
That’s why we should universally condemn the politically calculated efforts of the past decade by Republicans to demonize Obamacare.
Ditto that for the GOP’s blatant contempt for President Obama, who clearly displayed the tenacity and leadership to make the groundbreaking healthcare law a reality — following so many decades of failure by the Washington elites and lobbyists.
It’s too bad the current occupant of the Oval Office is bereft of the vital leadership traits which Obama so boldly displayed.
The Supreme Court also deserves accolades for deciding to largely uphold Obamacare as a matter of constitutional law, at least so far. Nevertheless, there’s still pending litigation before the high court to strip the poor and middle class of the valuable and life-saving health insurance obtained through Obamacare.
Additionally, if President Trump and Republicans in Congress had their way, affordable healthcare would be a privilege reserved only for the wealthiest among us.
That’s why opponents of Obamacare should also ponder these questions:
- Isn’t it time — after more than a decade of fighting losing battles — for the Republican Party to leave Obamacare alone and allow the law to keep working for poor and middle-class Americans who need it?
- Has the conservative right-wing attack machine already forgotten the dire political outcome for them of the 2018 mid-term elections in which Democrats recaptured the House of Representatives?
- Or do Republicans need to be reminded again of America’s allegiance to affordable healthcare via the general election this November?
National public opinion polls clearly show that Obamacare remains popular, with more Americans approving it than not.
- Andy Slavitt, former director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, writes the following in USA Today (article below):
- “The popularity of the ACA has steadily increased to its highest level as Americans have been faced with losing it. If anything, many voters want a law that goes further.”
- “The point driven home by a public health crisis with a highly contagious virus is that ultimately, we can be only as healthy as the least healthy people among us.”
- “If large swaths of the population can’t afford to take care themselves, guess what — it matters to you, too.”
Slavitt also points out how the coronavirus has magnified the necessity of affordable healthcare amid an ongoing pandemic.
- “The Republican plan to repeal the ACA without a replacement has been exposed for its absurdity. Imagine 21 million people losing coverage now.”
- “Health coverage wouldn’t have prevented the spread of the virus, but with 20–60% of Americans who could potentially get COVID-19, guaranteeing affordable coverage for people with preexisting conditions and other ACA protections are looking like just the basics we need to dig out of this.
If Obamacare needs repair then Congress should mend it, don’t end it — that would be foolish in terms of public policy, practicality, and political viability.
Prior to Obamacare, only government workers and some private-sector employees were fortunate enough to have comprehensive employer-provided healthcare benefits.
Meanwhile, millions of uninsured Americans, many with preexisting conditions, were left withering on the vine of healthcare insecurity.
This previously uninsured and under-insured group, largely comprised of indigent Americans struggling to survive, desperately needed affordable healthcare coverage. In fact, you may have known some of these people, who included your neighbors, friends, family, co-workers and other acquaintances. Perhaps they even included you?
Obamacare was a historic and critically important step in furtherance of the fundamental freedoms at the foundation of the world’s greatest democracy. The unequivocal fact is that Obama made unprecedented progress for America by fixing our badly broken healthcare system for those Americans who needed it most.
Today, as we confront a brutal and unpredictable pandemic, there should be no second-guessing the vital necessity of access to affordable healthcare via Obamacare. The coronavirus only exemplifies this point. That’s why we owe a big debt of gratitude to Barack Obama for championing and enacting his signature legislative achievement, which benefits the health and wellness of every generation of Americans and many more to come. And Obama deserves our thanks not only on the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, but every year.
Do you agree?
Previously published on Democracy Guardian.
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