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Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012

Election 2012: Two Visions—Health Care Reform

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President Barack Obama proudly embraces “Obamacare,” the label right-wingers have given to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Obama should be proud of his health care reform package.

The ACA isn’t perfect. It was the product of much compromise and give and take. But when the ACA is fully implemented it will finally make good on the decades-long efforts to provide universal health care to all Americans. It does so by:

  • Prohibiting insurance companies from generating excessive profits and denying policies to those who need them the most
  • Eliminating insurance gimmicks that lead to bankruptcies, gender bias and limits on care
  • Giving states the power to create their own insurance exchanges so individuals and small businesses can purchase plans in a local, transparent and cost-effective manner
  • Making common preventative health services and medications free of co-payments 
  • Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26
  • Requiring states to provide health care options to their poorest and most vulnerable residents, which will cut down on expensive emergency room care that eventually boosts costs for hospitals and everyone else.

Obama and his fellow Democrats should rightly be proud of this achievement, even if they haven’t fully explained its benefits to the nation.

Unfortunately, the ACA and its consumer protections could vanish if Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan take over the White House and their GOP colleagues take control of Congress, since they have made it their mission to repeal the bill immediately. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has refused to begin implementing parts of the ACA, saying he’ll wait until after the election. That’s a delay that this state simply cannot afford.

The Republicans’ opposition to the ACA doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The ACA was modeled on Romney’s health care reform in Massachusetts, which, most Bay State residents will agree, has proven to be a success. The ACA has its roots in a plan offered by the ultraconservative libertarian Heritage Institute, since it preserves the private market. And even the conservative-controlled U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it’s thoroughly constitutional.

The ACA must be implemented in full. Like we said, it’s not a perfect plan. But it’s a plan that helps to support the poor, small businesses, young people and women while keeping the private insurance industry intact (although it will no longer be able to rip off its customers).

A vote for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Senate hopeful Tammy Baldwin, Congressional candidates Gwen Moore and Rob Zerban and the Democrats running for the state Legislature is a vote for the long-held dream to provide universal health coverage to all Americans, similar to citizens in every other major industrialized country. If Republicans were being honest about their principles, they’d support it, too.