Founder and President, National Black Farmers Association
Fast-forwarding to the end of Barack Obama’s presidency is becoming routine as eager political and media watchers jump the gun on how his two terms will be judged. Much of this future watching is discussion is focused on the Affordable Care Act. That revolutionary law, a.k.a. “Obamacare,” is rightly considered his highest accomplishment and his administration’s signature legislative effort thus far.
It is hard to argue against that view, especially since many previous presidents labored to no avail to overhaul America’s faulty healthcare system. In the context of that history of failed attempts, getting the law through Congress must be seen as a major achievement.
We now know, however, that when President Obama signed the ACA into law on March 23, 2010, after a mighty in Congress, the battle in many ways had just begun. And on it goes. Conservative lawmakers were shocked when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts slammed efforts to undo the law in the courts. His surprise supporting vote to affirm the ACA in a five-to-four decision at the end of the Court’s 2012 session was not enough to silence critics. His finding that it is indeed legal to require that most Americans obtain health insurance under congressional power to levy taxes still did not deter hardliners on the Right who fight on today.
And in Congress, nearly 40 efforts to repeal or radically amend the ADA have been brought to a vote—and failed. Meanwhile, the “party of ‘NO’,” as one GOP leader dubbed them, has done very little to pass legislation to help America’s poor and hardworking middle-class citizen. Instead Congress continues to try and block what Americans need most—affordable health care. I continue to read about the health care repeal bills, but seldom hear or read about what the critics would offer as an effective alternative.
It seems that those who have the best healthcare available, provided for them by taxpayers who elected them to represent the people are determined to deny that critical coverage for other Americans.
A survey conducted by the National Black Farmers Association and the National Women Farmers Association in 2009 found that 68 percent of their members had no healthcare insurance, though most did have car insurance and homeowner’s insurance. In many states it is against the law to drive a motor vehicle without an auto policy or obtain a mortgage without a homeowner’s policy. We never hear of any efforts to repeal those laws, which protect loss of things that can be replaced.
Why is it so difficult to gain wider support for insuring America’s greatest asset, expanding the security of protecting one’s health—which cannot be replaced? Is it a resistance to putting the “little people” on a level with the more affluent in our society? Is the notion of equality so threatening to America’s economic elites?
I heard President Obama state in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus that under the ACA most Americans can obtain coverage for about a hundred bucks less than the cost of most cell phone bills. Conservatives have tried everything to delay progress on affordable health care, focusing for months now on the troubled website that slowed the initial rollout. Thus far their negativity has failed. People who are not computer-literate recognized that signing up was as simple as picking up the phone and calling the toll free number. It’s that easy to just get it done, especially for African Americans and other long-excluded groups.
What better way to observe Black History Month than to recognize the fact that we have a disproportionate rate of serious health problems. Certain conditions affect our communities at a higher rate than others, including heart attack, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. I often hear members of the National Black Farmers Association share their frustration at not being able to find coverage due to a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Law removes that barrier.
It is time to protect our future well-being, sign up for coverage and at the same time preserve President Obama’s rightful legacy. Just sign on to healthcare.gov or call toll free: 1 800 318-2596.
Opponents have done their best to deny you this hard-won protection. Don’t hand them a victory by neglecting to make good use of it, for yourself, your family, your president and your country. Maybe then Congress will respect this much-needed accomplishment and get busy working on other business, for the people.