Yesterday was bittersweet. What should have been a day completely devoted to celebrating the opening of the health insurance marketplaces was unfortunately hijacked by the black cloud of Washington dysfunction that has led to a government shutdown. The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress, signed by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court, which, by the way, is considered majority conservative. The path that this bill has taken to become a law is textbook Governing 101.
Unfortunately a stubborn group of conservative lawmakers feels that when they do not get their way the rules of basic governance no longer apply to them. They have attempted and failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act more than 40 times. Politicians at the state level are already putting in place mechanisms in numerous states to prevent eligible consumers from receiving proper information about their options for health insurance. And now, some in Congress have refused to fund the federal government over their instance that the program is either defunded or delayed, a foolish decision that threatens to cost this country up to $2 billion.
To be clear, the Affordable Care Act is the law. There is no reason why this should even be up for negotiation, especially within the context of the federal budget. And the futile political grandstanding is all for show—implementation began yesterday, regardless of the government shutdown.
The war being waged against a program that will potentially insure more than 30 million Americans, including at least six million nonelderly Hispanics, needs to end. It is irresponsible. The law is set in stone. Instead of holding up important policy measures such as the budget, we need all of our decision-makers on board to ensure that Americans are given the best shot at getting the health care they need.
Latinos have already made important gains in health care coverage since the Affordable Care Act was passed. A little more than a year after the law’s passage, ten million Latinos in either private insurance or Medicare have gained access to preventive services with no out-of-pocket costs. And nearly one million Latinos under the age of 26, with no other affordable options for coverage, have been able to join their parents’ plans. After full implementation, Hispanics could see as much as a 20 percent jump in insurance rates.
We are committed to protecting this vital opportunity for our community to take control of their health care needs. However, we need our national leaders to move the conversation forward instead of digging their heels in and sacrificing our time and our money.
The good news is that the politics of Washington have not fooled the American people. Americans are already turning out in heavy numbers to learn more about coverage and enroll in a plan. Nearly three million people visited the federal website Healthcare.gov on the first day alone. And many applications have already been filed and processed. So while a radical few in Congress continue their political theater over health care, the rest of America is seeing the real benefits of this law.