With a vote on a possible replacement bill looming, President Obama steps in.
With the future of health care in the U.S. on the line, people are making their voices heard — loudly.
Calls are flooding members of Congress urging them to vote against the Affordable Care Act replacement bill currently being considered by the House of Representatives. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-New York) said calls from his constituents are 1,000-to-1 against the bill.
Millions of people are taking action against the bill and urging Congress to save the ACA.
This morning, one more name joined the chorus: former President Barack Obama.
Obama signed the ACA into law, and on the seventh anniversary of that landmark legislation, he released a statement in its defense.
Here are seven important points Obama made that'll inspire you to call your member of Congress ahead of today's vote.
1. The days before the Affordable Care Act were rough. Really rough.
"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."
When he took office, an estimated 45.7 million Americans were uninsured, putting them just one catastrophic event away from drowning in hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in medical debt. Annual premium increases were skyrocketing, and something needed to be done. That something was the Affordable Care Act.
2. Change is hard and doesn't happen overnight.
"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 America, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody."
Health care reform was a long time coming, and the ACA was a powerful step in the right direction. To see all that work erased would be a shame.
3. The Affordable Care Act helped improve an unequal health care system and required compromise from both parties.
"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."
The ideas that netted those results didn't come from any one party. For example, the individual mandate — the requirement that all Americans get health coverage, which drove down the uninsured rate — was originally a Republican idea supported by Sen. Orrin Hatch and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Many Democrats, including Obama, were in favor of either a public option or a single-payer system, but they scrapped those ideas in the name of compromise.
4. Misinformation about the law existed before it was passed, and it thrives today. Here are the facts.
"Since the law passed, the pace of health care inflation has slowed dramatically. Prices are still rising, just as they have every year for decades — but under this law, they’ve been rising at the slowest rate in fifty years. Families who get coverage through their employer are paying, on average, thousands of dollars less per year than if costs kept rising as fast as they were before the law. ... [T]his law is no 'job-killer,' because America’s businesses went on a record-breaking streak of job growth in the seven years since I signed it."
Remember "death panels" (PolitiFact's 2009 "Lie of the Year")? The latest iteration of that sort of misinformation comes in the form of claims that the ACA is in the midst of a "death spiral," with premium costs soaring out of control.
5. The law is not perfect. But if Democrats, Republicans, and independents work together, we can fix its flaws.
"So if 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."
The current plan being considered by Congress doesn't accomplish those goals. In fact, with a Congressional Budget Office estimate of as many as 24 million people losing coverage under the replacement plan, it would almost certainly be an unmitigated disaster that makes life harder for the majority of Americans.
6. The Affordable Care Act is the result of everyday people making their voices heard. We need those same voices today to help protect the law.
"The Affordable Care Act is law only because millions of Americans mobilized, and organized, and decided that this fight was about more than health care — it was about the character of our country."
7. Whether we see health care as a right or as a privilege for just a select few says a lot about who we are as a country.
"It was about whether the wealthiest nation on Earth would make sure that neither illness nor twist of fate would rob us of everything we’ve worked so hard to build. It was about whether we look out for one another, as neighbors, and fellow citizens, who care about each other’s success."
Are we the kind of country that puts people over profits? Are we able to empathize with someone who doesn't look like us, talk like us, think like us, or pray like us to ensure that they have a chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? What direction we take here — whether improve the system or dismantle it — will say a lot about not only who are as a country, but who we want to be.