The Affordable Care Act is worth fighting for
By Congressman Charles Rangel
The crowning achievement of President Barack Obama’s first term – healthcare reform – was upheld by the Supreme Court on Thursday, June 28. The ruling marks a huge victory for the American people and our country. The provisions in the Affordable Care Act will expand coverage to 32 million Americans, including one in five blacks who lacked health insurance before the law was enacted. President Obama and Congress succeeded in establishing the closest thing to universal healthcare where others have failed over the last century. And we will keep fighting against Republican threats to dismantle it.
Although the Supreme Court reached the right decision and remained faithful to the Constitution and the American people, there is still another threat to the historic gains we have made: Republicans in Congress, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and the interests they represent. On the heels of the Court’s ruling came statements from Republican leadership uniformly swearing to repeal the bill. Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Presidential nominee, Governor Mitt Romney all denounced the healthcare reform law and vowed to repeal it.
Gov. Romney recently published an op-ed in USA Today calling the law “an unfolding disaster for the American economy, a budget-busting entitlement, and a dramatic new federal intrusion into our lives.” The truth of the matter is that the Affordable Health Care Act expands access to affordable, quality healthcare coverage while controlling costs. Democrats and the American people do not view that as a “disaster” but rather an important landmark in the history of our nation and a critical guarantor of personal health and financial security.
The Governor’s position on the Affordable Care Act is particularly telling because the universal healthcare bill he enacted in Massachusetts is so strikingly similar. As sponsor of the House version of the legislation, I can confidently say that the Massachusetts healthcare law was a model for our own efforts. It is also rather clear from Gov. Romney’s public statements that he supported a federal mandate as recently as three years ago.
In a 2009 USA Today op-ed, Romney said that “The lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find [a better way to go about healthcare reform]…. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others.” That is the core of what the individual mandate does. On Meet the Press in 2009, Romney said, “You look at Wyden-Bennett. That’s a healthcare plan that a number of Republicans think is a very good healthcare plan – one that we support…. The right way to proceed is to reform healthcare. That we can do as we did it in Massachusetts, as Wyden-Bennett is proposing doing it at the national level.” The Wyden-Bennett plan included a federal individual mandate.
Why is Romney’s flip flop important? We know what Romney will do if he wins the presidency: he declared he will lead the charge to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But Romney’s 180-degree turn on his view of a federal individual mandate suggests that the GOP is backed by and represents moneyed, corporate interests whose first priority is not the vast majority of Americans, but rather the wealthy few. Romney understands that a compromise measure benefiting most Americans, such as the Affordable Care Act, could no longer fly in today’s Republican Party.
While Democrats are fighting for the American people and trying to spur job growth and make the tax code more equitable, Republicans are merely fixated on defeating the President and repealing a law that guarantees affordable, quality healthcare to everyone in America. In fact, Gov. Romney in his recent USA Today op-ed closed with the following promise: “Abolishing [the Affordable Care Act] will be one of my highest priorities as president.” My highest priorities, the Democrats’ highest priorities, and President Obama’s highest priorities all involve helping the American people and moving our country forward, not rolling back the progress we have made.