EDITORIAL: The Affordable Care Act 11 Years Later

Let’s wind the clock back 14 years and remember how a recession, loss of jobs and a lack of health care were ravaging nearly every American household. These were the issues upon which Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama campaigned. His vision for a “full and vibrant economy” is what won the American electorates’ votes that carried him into office.

Months after his inauguration, President Obama went to Congress to deliver a message about health care. He said, “We came to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future – and that is the issue of health care. I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.”

It took months for Obama to outline his plan to the American people and for the politics to play out in Congress. On March 10, 2010, the House passed the Senate version of the bill despite all Republicans and 34 Democrats that voted against it. On March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare,” was signed into law two days later.

The ACA aimed to ensure that all Americans – people on welfare, the middle class, the self-employed, and people with pre-existing conditions – could and would be medically-insured.

Since its passage, efforts to abolish Obamacare have been ongoing. President Trump waged war against it, promising to repeal it while offering no alternative plans to replace it. He did, however, eliminate the individual mandate that ended the requirement that individuals pay the penalty for not having health insurance.

As the nation paused this week to acknowledge the ACA’s anniversary, Americans’ physical health is declining, and mental health is at an all-time low. A pandemic opened the wounds of economic insecurity, homelessness and a health care crisis that was unimaginable a decade ago. Research shows that unemployment makes people sick.

The Obama administration and Congress deserve credit for moving beyond talking to quantifiable action in making health care accessible and affordable. However, the best intentions have not resulted in a healthier population. Health care must remain a priority for every local and state legislature, and Congress must focus on making the health care system better to save American lives.

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