It is a day that even I wondered would ever come. I began Extreme Thinkover with posts on the topic of comprehensive health care for all Americans. I wrote in September of 2008:
The typical arguments for or against universal health care always focus on what the government will have to spend, what taxes will have to be raised to finance it at any level, or providing health care to consumers, i.e., virtually the whole population, has been, from my perspective, approached from the wrong frame of reference.
I put forth the argument on numerous occasions. The Affordable Care Act, from my perspective, is a just solution to a miserably broken health care non-system. It is just in the sense that this law creates a new level of access to medical assistance that Americans have never enjoyed, but that virtually every other First World country (and a number of smaller nations) has offered its citizens for decades.
The Affordable Care Act is the cornerstone of an inalienable right that makes possible in a tangible manner the chance for every person in the country to be healthier, and consequently enjoy the Blessings of Liberty. Yes, I can imagine the eyes rolling over that assertion. But though it will take a generation, maybe more, to make that difference, doing nothing, that is, to go back to the pre-ACA situation, Americans would continue to be less healthy, costing perhaps trillions of dollars in avoidable care. Now, at least we have a law, a system, that can turn that trend around.
Having worked in a hospital for over a decade and a half with daily patient contact, I can attest to the misery and personal suffering that those who have no insurance are forced to bear. Add to that, my hospital is Catholic, with a mission to serve the poor and uninsured, and I have seen the incredible stress this very broken way of providing medical care has placed on my organization, restricting our capacity to plan for the future because tens of millions of dollars annually are required to subsidize those with no insurance.
I fully realize that the success of this change depends on individuals taking personal responsibility for their health. I would contend, however, based on my experience with chronically ill patients who are poor or unemployed, they are caught in a vicious circle that all too often results in their getting the short end of the stick economically, for which access to medical care for wellness simply does not exist.
I could also put it this way, with the Supreme Court’s decision today, health care in America has finally stepped into the 20th Century. The challenge now to us living in the 21st Century is fend off those who would overturn the law and plant us firmly back into the 19th Century.
People. Real, live people with real live medical needs. That is what the ACA is really about. That is why for nearly four years, I’ve objected to the argument put forth by the law’s opponents that it was all about money and government. I rejected that argument on both moral and ethical grounds. Those who grouse that they are only paying for others bad habits are short-sighted, and in my opinion, fundamentally selfish. To me, that argument is both highly ironic and paradoxical, because my experience with my neighbors has uniformly been that Americans possess a natural selflessness and generosity to help anyone in need. But somehow getting the connection tied between to the two has been an uphill battle and continues to be.
For example, I have no doubt that if Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. John Boehner, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, or Sarah Palin were in a setting in which total strangers were injured and needed immediate emergency medical care, that every one of them would step up and wade in to help. But all of them today condemned this law, despite the fact it acts on their behalf as well, so that their fellow citizens will receive that care as a matter of course. And those patients won’t be nearly as likely to end up bankrupt as a result of seeking out that care.
Simply put, I don’t get it why they don’t get it. (I’ve got a pretty good notion why they think they don’t want to get it, however). Because of that great contradiction, conservatives like those mentioned above still want to overturn it legislatively. I will continue to write to defend it.