Chair’s Corner: the ACA is imperfect but alive (for now)

blood pressure monitor, pill holder and pillsThanks to 48 stalwart U.S. Democratic Senators, who prioritize the health of all Americans, and three sensible Republican Senators – Collins, McCain and Murkowski – the U.S. Senate’s attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has failed, again.

At least for now.

Don’t forget this: Democrats saved the ACA
We are hearing a lot of thanks to Senators Collins, McCain, and Murkowski for breaking their party line and voting against the repeal. And honestly, I am grateful for their votes.

Our own Sen. Murkowski, as well as Sen. Collins of Maine, consistently voted No, and they deserve a lot of credit for standing up against pressure.

But it seems to me that we also need to thank the 48 Democrats who did the right thing to protect health care for a large majority of Americans. Some of them are up for tough re-election campaigns in red states, and they held the line anyway.

Harder truths
There is another truth we need to be clear on: the ACA isn’t perfect.

When the ACA was passed, President Obama and Congress knew that tweaks were going to be necessary as different parts of the law went into effect. Through various bits of Republican sabotage – the pushback against the Medicaid expansion and the Cost Sharing Reductions come to mind – it didn’t work as originally planned, and those improvements have never been made.

The ACA has achieved a lot: in 2010, there were over 45 million uninsured people under 65 in America. But even though the uninsured rate in America is the lowest it’s ever been, there are still 27 million people without coverage.

There is still work to be done, and if Republicans in Congress were willing to work in good faith, there are improvements to the ACA that we could make.

The political path forward on the technical issues is not clear. But one thing we do know is that the repeal-and-replace sideshow in Washington D.C. is not a good-faith effort to improve the ACA.

In fact, it would be a disaster.

So, what do we do?

Photo courtesy Social Security Works

Getting inspired
This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to visit with Jon Bauman. You may know him as “Bowzer” of the musical group and TV show Sha Na Na.

Now a Senior Advisor for Social Security Works, Jon spoke at the Bartlett Club lunch in Anchorage last week about protecting Medicaid and Medicare. He then came to Juneau on his own time to follow his passion of watching humpback whales. He’s been visiting Juneau every summer since 1997 to watch our amazing whales!

He and I talked about a lot of things – he has a remarkable grasp of the issues – but more than anything else, our time together left me thinking that now is the time to put out a positive agenda for the ACA’s future.

Here’s what I mean by a positive agenda for the ACA. From now on, instead of only calling to tell my legislators to vote against the inevitable future anti-ACA bills, I’m going to say:

  1. Vote against this bill.
  2. Complete the Medicaid expansion.
  3. Pass a law mandating that the Cost Sharing Reductions be paid.

Resisting the effort to gut the ACA will probably be an ongoing struggle, but I truly believe that having a positive agenda is an important part of it.

Democrats must speak truth to power. Part of that truth is that we need to build on the work that has already been done through the ACA.

Until next time.…
Nancy Courtney
Chair, Tongass Democrats
(907) 321-2285

The views in this opinion piece are those of the author. They are not official positions of or the Tongass Democrats.

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