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Huffington Post: An Anniversary Worth Celebrating

March 18, 2011

This week will mark one year since the Health Care Reform bill was enacted, making quality health care more accessible and affordable for all Americans. Before President Obama, before this legislation, we were the only modern industrialized nation in the world to lack any kind of comprehensive system ensuring that its citizens had access to basic medical care. Now we are headed towards a future where Americans of every economic level can afford basic health insurance.

While the full implementation of the bill will not take effect for another two years, many people have already started to see the benefits of this landmark piece of legislation. Seniors are better able to afford their medicines thanks to the closing of the so-called Medicare “donut-hole,” preventing them from having to choose between their medicines and a meal. Young people can stay on their parents plan until age 26, providing great comfort to children and parents alike while these young people make their way into the workforce.

Mothers and infants also have benefited greatly from Health Care Reform. For the first time, infant children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. In years past, any slight condition, even being born prematurely, could be grounds for denial of coverage. But with the reforms that have taken place since the President signed Health Care Reform into law, no infant will have to go without medical coverage.

Additionally, the bill smartly emphasizes preventative care including prenatal visits, which are covered under the bill. Too often in low-income communities, mothers forego prenatal check-ups and pre-natal counseling, resulting in higher incidence of pre-term labor, low birth weight babies, and complications. This is especially true in the African American community where, partly because of lack of access to prenatal services, African American babies have an infant mortality rate that is almost three times higher than their white counterparts.

This emphasis on preventative care is vital in many low-income communities which suffer disproportionately from hypertension and diabetes, both of which can be treated effectively if caught early.  The Health Care Reform bill goes a long way towards making this type of preventative care accessible to all.

Yet, with all of this progress, with the benefits of this bill being felt everyday by Americans across the county, the Republicans have made it their primary mission to dismantle this bill. They would sooner go back to the way things were than allow this victory on President Obama’s watch. They would go back to the days when health care was only the privileged few, and all others would either go without proper treatment or resort to using the emergency room. Worse than that, since they will never be successful in actually repealing the Health Care Reform bill, they want to do an end run around Congress and simply defund it. They are trying, piece by piece, to block or delay funding for the implementation of the bill, thereby stopping its benefits from being fully realized.

As I have stated many times before, this bill is important not only because of what it provides in terms of health care accessibility, but because it creates jobs at a time when we desperately need to get America back to work. In fact, the Health Care Reform bill creates over 300,000 jobs almost immediately. And these are good jobs—union jobs, and jobs that cannot be outsourced. We cannot let the Republicans destroy this opportunity to lift so many people out of unemployment so that they can score political points with their base.

As we reflect on the anniversary of the passage of Health Care Reform this week, it seems that we still have a struggle ahead of us to ensure that all Americans have access to quality health care. But if we work together, we can celebrate many more anniversaries of this landmark legislation in the years to come. 

This editorial was originally published in the Huffington Post.