Barack Obama, who (thank heavens) will not go quietly into the night, released an epic statement this morning to mark the seventh and potentially last anniversary of the imperiled Affordable Care Act, which he signed into law in 2010.
Repeal it at your own peril
Late this evening, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Republican-led American Health Care Act (AHCA). If it passes (and it’s not clear it will, since the bill’s most significant success so far is that it offends moderate and extreme conservative sensibilities, alike), it is likely to cost 24 million people their insurance—even more than a simple repeal of the ACA would, according to the New York Times—and fundamentally transform the role of the federal government in providing health care to American citizens.
Former President Obama isn’t just going to sit back and twiddle his thumbs while one of his most crucial legislative victories faces repeal. While he’s said he would refrain from most political commentary now that he’s out of office, he vowed to step in if he thought the current government threatened either the fabric of our democratic values or the health and safety of the American people. (Check and check!)
Thanks to this law, the days when women could be charged more than men and Americans with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage altogether are relics of the past.
In a literal five-paragraph emailed statement, Obama said: “When I took office, millions of Americans were locked out of our health care system. So, just as leaders in both parties had tried to do since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, we took up the cause of health reform. It was a long battle, carried out in Congressional hearings and in the public square for more than a year. But ultimately, after a century of talk, decades of trying, and a year of bipartisan debate, our generation was the one that succeeded. We finally declared that in American, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody.”
He continued: “The result was the Affordable Care Act, which I signed into law seven years ago today. Thanks to this law, more than twenty million Americans have gained the security and peace of mind of health insurance. Thanks to this law, more than ninety percent of Americans are insured—the highest rate in our history. Thanks to this law, the days when women could be charged more than men and Americans with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage altogether are relics of the past. Seniors have bigger discounts on prescription drugs. Young people can stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26 years old. And Americans who already had insurance received an upgrade as well—from free preventative care, like mammograms and vaccines, to improvements in the quality of care in hospitals that has averted nearly 100,000 deaths so far.”
The statement goes on (and on), never explicitly mentioning the legislation on the docket this afternoon, but cautioning congressional leaders that “the reality is clear: America is stronger because of the Affordable Care Act.”
Finally, Obama offered this rubber stamp to those who are dissatisfied with it:
“[I]f Republicans are serious about lowering costs while expanding coverage to those who need it, and if they’re prepared to work with Democrats and objective evaluators in finding solutions that accomplish those goals—that’s something we all should welcome. But we should start,” he went on, “from the baseline that any changes will make our health care system better, not worse for hardworking Americans. That should always be our priority.”
In other words, proceed at your risk, Paul Ryan.