Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the 2010 Affordable Health Care Act, the question must be asked: What was all the fuss about?
Since World War II, our health care system has been the subject of a legislative initiative by almost every president. It is clear that the overwhelming majority of Americans want access to affordable, quality health care. Our communities want care that promotes healthy, productive lives. Who wouldn't want this? We want it for ourselves, our families, our friends and, most polls suggest, even for perfect strangers.
Yet for almost 60 years, we have been stymied as a nation by a stubborn resistance to this fundamental idea. As a result, we have seen the health care sector grow to 16 percent of our national economy, with benefits stripped down and costs dramatically escalating.
Because of this, President Obama took on this issue and signed into law the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The reaction was swift and outrageous by opponents of the law, including the president's right-wing opposition and certain media outlets like Fox News. The law and the president were attacked and vilified in the most extreme form. Shameful denunciations and, quite frankly, lies became the talking points of the day: "death panels," "government takeover," "socialized medicine," etc.
With this ruling, perhaps the hyperbole will die down and the actual advantages of the law can be seen more clearly.
* Seniors will continue to save money on prescription drugs as the doughnut hole closes over the next eight years; already more than five million seniors have saved $3.7 billion on prescriptions.
* More than six million young adults will remain covered by their parents' health care plans.
* Insurance companies no longer have unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny coverage or charge women more than men.
*?Americans cannot be denied care or charged more due to a pre-existing condition, like cancer or even asthma.
*?Preventive care will be covered free of charge by insurance companies — including mammograms for women and wellness visits for seniors.
* Millions of Americans will receive a rebate because their insurance company spent too much on administrative costs or CEO bonuses.
Having health insurance will continue to be a choice. If you can't afford insurance or you're a small business that wants to provide affordable insurance to your employees, you'll get tax credits. But if you can afford insurance and you choose not to purchase it, taxpayers will no longer subsidize your care for free.
The election of 2012, like all elections, will be decided on a number of fronts. One is sure to be health care. Let the facts speak louder than the partisan, political opponents of the law.
Richard Lipsitz is president of the Western New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.