Check your health insurance card Tuesday at noon

by Karoli on March 22, 2010 · 10 comments

lightning-08-15That is, if you have one. The President will sign the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka health care reform), finally establishing a level playing field for every American when it comes to access to affordable health care. Finally. Equal access at last. Amid all the rhetorical thunder, it seems to me it comes down to this: We either believe everyone has a right to affordable health care or we don’t. Passage of the bill establishes health care as a value for everyone, not just old, young, and the disabled. Everyone.

mistermix over at Balloon Juice put it in terms that clearly define what happened last night:

Think about some common parental fears:

1. My child will be gay and/or want to marry someone of a different race.

2. My child will get pregnant, or make someone pregnant, and an abortion will be needed.

3. My child will have a childhood illness like Juvenile Diabetes or Epilepsy, or have a traumatic injury, that they will carry into their adult life.

But it’s pretty hard to wish away (3). You can’t control whether your child is going to fall from a swingset and hit his head, or be run over by a car, or have a pancreas that doesn’t work right. If health insurance is denied for people with pre-existing conditions, anyone’s child runs the risk of losing healthcare, long after the parent has passed from the scene.

The minute Obama signs the bill, the Democrats can say that health insurance cannot be denied for a pre-existing condition, and that they had to fight every single Republican for this right. That message is simple, it hits people where they live, and it addresses a universal concern.

There it is. It’s not a small thing. It is knowing that your child will be able to live, to have access to life-giving medical care, and by having that access, they will be able to make life choices like pursuing their passion as a self-employed person, or not suffering job discrimination for age or health conditions, or simply sleeping at night.

When Republicans stomp and cry and have a tantrum and say they’re going to repeal this, it boggles my mind. They’re going to go to their states and districts and actually campaign on the idea of discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions, making seniors pay more for their medications, withdrawing funds from local, valued community health centers providing basic primary care services to the neediest in our community, booting adult children off insurance policies earlier, and capping maximum lifetime and annual benefits for everyone?

History is a harsh teacher. When candidates run for office based on diminishing or removing something already available, they generally don’t win. John F. Kennedy’s speech on October 8, 1960 lays out the strategy for countering cries of repeal:

I stand in succession to three great Democratic Presidents, and I believe in this century you can tell the difference between our two parties in the slogans that they have used in their campaigns. No Democratic President ever ran on a program of “Stand pat with McKinley” or “Return to normalcy with Harding” or “Keep cool with Coolidge” or “Repeal social security with Alf Landon” or in 1948 – I dont know what Dewey ran on and neither did he. [Applause.] And no Democratic President in 1960 in this dangerous time in the life of our country, when all around us is stretching out the possibilities of upheaval and revolt, and subterranean changes – no Democratic President would ever run on the slogan “You never had it so good.

In 2010, when Republicans go back to campaign for re-election, they’re going to point to their stellar records during this term of doing exactly…what? If they keep the somewhat empty and hollow threat not to cooperate with Democrats, what do they propose to offer instead? Liberty? Liberty to die? Liberty to be sick, miserable and bankrupt?

On Tuesday at noon, those who have insurance will not see their cards self-destruct when the President signs the bill. Those who do not have insurance, however, will see a future where they can actually live without fear of being bankrupted by illness, discriminated against because of illness, or an early death because of an undiagnosed, untreated illness.

Let them threaten repeal. Let them obstruct passage of much-needed Wall Street reforms. Let them posture and shake their fists, and cry “Shame on you!” on the House floor. Let them do all of these things knowing their real message is founded on the sincere belief that some are haves, and some are have-nots, and our country should not value equality for all. Let’s see how that plays in the 2010 elections.

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