It’s Time To Defend and Protect Health Care Reform!

By Rob Banaszak on March 25, 2011 in Policy/Advocacy

By James Schneidewind, Public Policy Associate

On March 23, 2010, President Obama lifted his pen and signed into law The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and forever changed the way the U.S. cares for the health needs of its citizens. Passage of the Act marked an historical resolution by our government to make good on its compact with the people to offer quality and affordable health care to all citizens, not just a privileged few. A year later, we have watched as campaigns for and against the law have raged, listened as debate in Congress over the law has been resurrected due to Republican repeal bills, and witnessed a change in the way health care is distributed in the country as provisions from the law have gone into effect.

Despite the misinformation and confusion associated with the ACA, we know and have known that millions of uninsured and vulnerable Americans will have access to health care and insurance as a result of its passage. We know that many of the health disparities in the United States that run along racial, ethnic, geographical, and income lines will be reduced or even eliminated by this law. We also know that it will become the base for expanding coverage in the future, offering more benefits to those in need and, we hope, making the United States the healthiest country in the world. This enormous potential is understood by most politicians, pundits, and citizens from across the political spectrum.

Unfortunately, as debate over the ACA has been reignited by Republican efforts in Congress to repeal the law, we find ourselves recycling old arguments and talking points from 2009 and 2010. Our public dialogue has not evolved as benefits have kicked in, facts from reputable sources have emerged, and Americans have begun telling their stories about how they have benefitted from the ACA. We do not live in the same climate as we did two years ago, nor do we face the same challenges. It is time for our discourse on health care reform to evolve.

In March 2011, according to a Gallup poll, 13% of Americans see the federal debt as the most important problem facing our nation, more than at any other point in the last 10 years. In response, a small group of Senators and other leaders have pledged to look at sustainable and long-term plans to reduce the deficit as opposed to focusing on immediate, superficial budget fixes that do little to alleviate our deficit strains. This makes staying the course with the ACA much more germane. In January, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), an unbiased and nonpartisan agency that makes projections on the federal debt and estimates on the cost of legislation, issued a report that shows repeal of the ACA would add $230 billion to the federal debt over the next decadeand leave 32 million more Americans uninsured, according to a preliminary analysis. It also found that repeal would add $1.2 trillion in the second decade after passage. Last year, the CBO estimated that the ACA would reduce the deficit by $143 billion by 2019. These are real facts and figures that cast the cost-effectiveness of health care reform in a different light than the information available to us a year ago.

A year ago, many Americans were confused about how the ACA would benefit them due in part to misleading and unsubstantiated claims made by many in regards to health care reform. A year later, Americans are still confused and divided on the issue, according to a recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The poll finds that public approval and disapproval ratings of the law are about even, showing that roughly 46% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the health care reform law while 42% felt favorably about it, compared with 46% and 40% respectively in April of 2010. However, when broken down by individual provisions, the law is overwhelmingly popular. Eighty-two percent of Americans want to keep the tax credits to small businesses; 76% want to keep the provision that gradually closes the Medicare “doughnut hole”; 74% want to keep requirements that guarantee the issuance of insurance to all citizens regardless of health, income or age; 72% want to keep the provision that affords financial help for low and moderate income Americans in need of coverage; and a somewhat surprising 58% want to keep the provision that increases the Medicare payroll tax on the wealthy. It is now clear in March of 2011 that more Americans than ever before like the contents of this law, if not the name of the law itself or the confusing rhetoric surrounding it.

As we move forward with the implementation of the ACA, let’s move the debate forward as well. Let’s avoid the wasteful back and forth made up of hypothetical what-ifs that are intended to confuse Americans and stick to the established facts and real stories. A year into the process it’s time to talk less about how people will benefit and more about how they have already benefited. Most importantly, it’s time to DEFEND and PROTECT the ACA from repeal efforts.

Visit Healthcare.gov’s “Better Benefits, Better Care” page to see specifically how health care reform has benefitted small businesses, seniors, young adults, women, and all Americans in general with the Patient Protection Act.

Read how the ACA will specifically benefit people living with HIV/AIDS.

Hear personal stories of people who have already reaped the benefits of the ACA, highlighted by an under-graduate student from my Alma Mater, Michigan State University!

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