Saving the Affordable Care Act Is Our Moral Responsibility

The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.

As Senator Bernie Sanders and others have said many times the United States of America is the only leading industrialized country on the planet that does not offer healthcare as a fundamental right to its citizens. This is a moral outrage that the country that is the leader of the free world cannot care for its own citizens with affordable and accessible healthcare.

It should not be lost on anyone that the budget resolution vote in the Senate to begin the repeal process was taken in the early morning hours on Thursday after a late night “vote-a-rama” session in which every amendment to the bill was defeated. The House predictably passed this bill after two-and-half hours of “debate” on Friday.

These votes came amid many other news stories of the week including several heated and contested confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet members including Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Mike Pompeo, and Ben Carson, breaking news regarding Donald Trump and Russia, an investigation into FIB Director James Comey, and President Barack Obama’s Farwell Address and his awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden. Additionally, there was Meryl Streep’s heartfelt and razor sharp speech at the Golden Globe Awards on Monday night and Donald Trump’s disaster of what can hardly be called a press conference on Wednesday.

None of these stories were able to get the media coverage they demanded to keep the public adequately informed about these important events. This is by design. Overwhelm and distract so the public can’t see that the swamp is not being drained but filled to the brim. Thus also the swift work of the Senate and the House in passing the budget resolutions to begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Overwhelm. Distract. None of this is by accident or happenstance.

As to the Affordable Care Act specifically and the funding of Planned Parenthood secondarily, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan took to a Town Hall on CNN on Thursday night and tried to defend the unconscionable actions and plans of his party to repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood. Scarier than the lies he told to host Jake Tapper, the audience, and the viewing American public on these matters was the believability of his statements by people not somewhat informed on the complexity and history of how healthcare and insurance have worked in this country before and after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

What Americans need to know is that the Congressional Republicans are not interested in making healthcare more affordable or accessible. If that were true, they would have found ways to improve upon the Affordable Care Act during the past six years. Instead, they took 65 votes to repeal it with a junk bill they knew would never become law.

Their primary goals are giving tax breaks and other benefits to the wealthy and corporate people and tearing apart President Barack Obama’s work and legacy.

It will do no good to make good faith arguments on policy with these Republicans. They have shown the American people their values and their desire to keep some facts hidden from the public with the passage of a bill that does not allow the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to report cost analysis on their healthcare law.

It is clear the vast majority of American people support the Affordable Care Act and reasonable improvements to it over repealing it all together. It has been terribly unfortunate that many have been confused and missed the part about Obamacare being the name Republicans attached to the Affordable Care Act. And more, that many people blame the healthcare law for things that are actually the result of decisions made by the insurance and drug companies.

In the coming days, weeks, and months the American people will need to stay focused amid a sea of chaos on the actions of Congress and the Trump administration.

More the American people will need to make most vociferously the moral argument for affordable and accessible healthcare being a fundamental right of every citizen of this country.

As Sarah Jones made clear regarding the deference showed by some Democrats to Senator Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing to be the next Attorney General, despite his atrocious record on civil rights, this is no time to be nice.

She wisely counsels that: Niceness is not the same as advocating for peace, justice, equality, rights – those things are achieved by fierce fights.

There is indeed a fierce fight ahead of us in saving the Affordable Care Act and we cannot afford to be nice about it. It is not just good policy but a moral imperative of our time to protect the most vulnerable among us and assure every citizen the healthcare they need when they need it. Illness is indiscriminate and every person must be afforded the care they need when they need it.