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Published orginally in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on June 29, 2012
After more than a century of debate, President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress won a historic victory with passage of the Affordable Care Act. Exorbitant health care costs prompted Democrats to take the lead and do what no other Congress has been able to do — put health insurance in reach for more than 50 million uninsured Americans and more affordable for everyone.
Rather than build on this major step forward, Republicans immediately mounted challenges aimed at repeal to put insurance companies back in charge. Minutes after the highest court in the land upheld the law, multimillion-dollar attack ads hit the airwaves. But don’t be fooled.
This decision, by the most conservative court in decades, affirms that the individual mandate does not represent government overreach or undue intervention, but is constitutionally permissible. This ruling is a tremendous victory for the American people who are already reaping its benefits.
Due to a pre-existing condition, small businesswoman Amy Morton and more than 2 million Georgians — including nearly a quarter of women in Georgia — were unable to buy health insurance at any price. They were considered “uninsurable” because they were sick. Now they have health care.
Marion Nurse of Atlanta, along with 3.6 million seniors and people with disabilities, have saved more than $3 billion on their prescription drugs. “Obamacare,” as opponents derisively call it, ensures Marion can afford her heart medication.
Joe Lowery of Clarkston can now keep his two adult children on his health plan. They are just starting out and cannot afford coverage on their own. Today, more than 3 million children nationwide are covered by their parent’s insurance because of this law.
Despite Thursday’s decision, Republicans remain curiously committed to repealing the law at any cost. The bogeymen of “government takeover” and “death panels” that come between patients and doctors are figments of the Republican scare machine. You can test this by asking Morton, Nurse and Lowery, your friends, neighbors and family who reap the benefits of the law. They describe even greater access to their doctors, not less because insurance companies can no longer deny them care they need.
And the best is yet to come. The full impact of the bill won’t even take effect until 2014, when 30 million more Americans will get tax credits to buy affordable health care for the first time.
People need to scrutinize the motives of Republicans determined to repeal progress that every president since Teddy Roosevelt has tried and failed to achieve. If the law is constitutional and it works, why not build on this success, instead of gunning to destroy it? This law bans insurers from charging women 150 percent for the same coverage as men. It lifts the lifetime limit on coverage for 105 million Americans. Why would anyone want to reverse that?
This bill’s opponents have publicly sworn to deny Obama any victory, even if it puts millions of Americans’ lives at risk. Don’t let a parade of false partisan ads and scare tactics cheat you out of what’s coming to you in 2014. Let your pocketbook and your experience be your guide. Tell the governor you want the state to expand Medicaid paid for by the federal government. And tell members of Congress you want to build on this progress, not tear it down.
Democrat Hank Johnson represents Georgia’s 4th Congressional District. Congressman John Lwis represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District.