With the debate swirling in the midst of the GOP attempt to pass the Graham-Cassidy bill before September 30th, it is time to have a frank discussion about how we got where we are today in the conversation surrounding healthcare. History shows us a hard truth: Healthcare has always been the line that divides the haves from the have-nots in this country.
President Harry Truman was one of the very first to fight for a plan for universal health care coverage back in 1945 as part of his Fair Deal. Had it passed, his plan would have worked much like Social Security does, but his plan was rejected. Nine years later, after Congress rejected the idea of healthcare for all, employers instead took control. Employers had the power to give benefits only to a certain group of people, which eventually created a two-tiered system where only privileged individuals had access to quality health care. The next few decades brought many changes to our healthcare system, adding Medicare and Medicaid in the 70s and then a shift to private healthcare insurance in the 80s.
But then came President Obama, who was finally able to pass the Affordable Care Act that gave millions of people coverage who previously didn’t have it. The ACA was an attempt to level the playing field, and its benefits have been numerous. It gave protections to those with disabilities and pre-existing conditions. Over 70% of nursing home residents are now covered by Medicaid, and Medicaid also provides coverage for two out of every five kids in this country. Yet the Republican Party wants to go back to two tiered system that protects only the rich. If we don’t stop them, rural hospitals that have been able to expand services and clinics throughout Arkansas will be the first to close their doors.
Republicans want to gut Medicaid, yet many people in this state don’t even realize that ARKidsFirst is Arkansas’ version of Medicaid. In Garland County this is particularly troubling, as one out of every four of our children and elderly live at or below the poverty line, and 14% of our people still don’t have any insurance at all. We can drive to our health care clinic where we’ll see people standing in long lines waiting to see a doctor because they don’t enjoy the benefit of private healthcare insurance like their white collar counterparts.
My husband and I have a little girl who’s three years old. She’s beautiful and smart and the very best thing that’s ever happened to me. When I look in her eyes, I see the childlike innocence and beauty of everything that can be right in this world. Our children are the generation of tomorrow. And all of our kids – my daughter, your daughter, your neighbor’s daughter – all of them deserve to grow up in a country knowing that whatever healthcare issue may arise, we invest in them and their health and well-being.
I know the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect and that people are legitimately frustrated with rising healthcare costs, myself included. We all want lower premiums and more money in our pockets from month to month. The cost of prescription medications is outrageous. But the answer doesn’t come in the form of block grants; it comes in the form of people reaching across the political aisle to do what’s best for American families.
I believe in the people of this country and I believe in our capacity for goodness and for doing the right thing. And the right thing is caring about each other, lifting one another up, and coming together to tackle the problems of poverty, healthcare, and income inequality. But somehow we’ve drifted so far from what’s right that THIS is where we are. And we have to find our way back. We have to fight, and we have to make our voices heard. And if they refuse to listen, the only thing we have left is our collective vote. And that vote can be a very powerful thing.
2018 is coming, and it’s coming soon. I’ll see you at the polls.
Because, after all – it’s our tomorrow.