The Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare is an extra-ordinary initiative. It acquired that signature label for some excellent reasons.
At the top of the list is the fact that it has brought the United States to its closest point in history of recognizing that access to health care is a fundamental right, an entitlement that must be respected by a vast majority of Americans. Secondly, although complicated it has flaws which need correction.
Another reason is that it is so far reaching that supporters and critics alike consider it a pivotal element in the history of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black commander-in-chief. The health initiative has opened facilities and care to at least 20 million people across the land who were previously prevented from getting the help they so urgently need.
Third, U.S. Congressman John Lewis, a Democrat of Georgia and one of the most iconic figure of the civil rights movement of the 1950 and 1960, described “health care” as a “right and not a privilege” and gave Obamacare the full credit for ushering it in.
Little wonder that after spending seven years trying to repeal it or eliminate its financial lifeblood Republicans in Congress and state houses led by President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, Vice President Mike Pence and a long list of conservatives had to throw up their hands in frustration when loud opposition to their plan, the American Health Care Act or Trumpcare forced them to pull the plug on it, at least for the time being.
Nowhere was the rejoicing over the outcome more vociferous on Capitol Hill than among members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the large number of Black members of the House of Representatives and the Senate who fought with every breath of their bodies to keep Obamacare alive so that: (a) it wouldn’t suffer the fate of being unjustly relegated to the dustbins of history by political partisanship; (b) continue to allow tens of millions of Americans, especially the poor, to enjoy benefits that extend people’s life spans; (c) ensure that children can grow up and enjoy productive lives and (d) guarantee that the elderly receive the care and attention that they have earned.
The Republican majorities in the House and the Senate had placed a high premium on getting rid of Obamacare, not because it was unworkable and expensive as they claimed but because it infringed on the rights of the pharmaceutical industry and was a bright feather Obama’s cap.
It was a clear and obvious case of the needs of the poor and less fortunate in our country whose interests being ignored in order to advance the interests of the rich and the powerful.
The Republicans, eager to flex their political muscles, introduced the America Health Care Act, AHCA, or Trumpcare which, if approved would have repealed the ACA. Its implementation would have been a major tragedy. It have closed the door to the medicines, professional skills and sophisticated facilities of health care institutions in urban and rural communities that are life-savers. Children and adults with “pre-existing conditions” would have been cut-off from health insurance and the subsidies needed by the poor.
Take the case of New York. Repeal of Obamacare would have cost 2.7 people across the state almost $4 billion. Many of them would have lost their health insurance and the state budget would have been forced to absurd a shortfall of $3.7 billion in federal funding. For instance, county governments would have been denied $600 million in federal assistance that currently provides health care for the elderly.
The reason given by the Republicans for the draconian measures came down to an untrue claim that Obamacare was imploding, costly and was ineffective.
But as Congressman Gregory Meeks, a Democrat of Queens, Senator Corey Booker, New Jersey’s Black U.S. Senator, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries and Representative Yvette Clarke both of Brooklyn insisted, quite correctly, the real driving force behind the Republican action was a narrow desire to strip away any credit that adds Obama’s bright image legacy while taking money away from the poor and giving it to the rich, a kind of reverse Robin Hood ploy.
That’s why the Congressional Black Caucus must be eternally vigilant as they celebrate Obamacare’s new lease on life. For Trump who was denied a Congressional victory can be expected to return to the issue with vengeance sometime soon.
Being forced to pull the bill from a Congressional vote, Republicans will not allow the recent humiliating spectacle to be the lasting image. They can be expected to revive it and be careful to garner the support they need to make it the law of the land.
People everywhere must be prepared for three things: to press their elected representatives to fix the problems bedeviling Obamacare; reject any Republican attempts to repeal it; and continue the battle to guarantee government’s important role in the business of health. After all, the U.S. is the only rich country that doesn’t guarantee its citizens access to affordable care.