Healthcare Reform We Can All Believe In

When President Obama signed legislation enabling millions to gain access to health insurance, he achieved a milestone that eluded seven previous presidents.

President Obama speaks about health insurance reform at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa., March 8, 2010. (Source: White House)

When President Barack Obama today signed into law legislation that will enable millions of Americans to gain access to health care insurance, he delivered on the promise he held since launching his audacious journey to the White House: Change we can believe in. With the 219-212 House vote late Sunday night, he achieved a historic milestone that eluded seven previous presidents—Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Clinton—over a span of more than 60 years. In doing so, he demonstrated that his brand of intelligent, can-do leadership can defeat the forces of resistance no matter how pernicious. Nothing will hold him back in his mission of remaking our nation into one that offers parity and prosperity.

President Obama has created a nation with insurance for all. In fact, after the House vote, Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), the highest-ranking African American in Congress, said he considered “this to be the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century”—an array of federal policies that would dramatically restructure health care delivery for generations to come. The ground-breaking legislation requires most American citizens and legal residents to purchase health insurance as well as covers an additional 32 million people through Medicaid, subsidies to families and tax credits to small businesses. Among other initiatives, the package also creates a health care exchange in which uninsured individuals and small businesses can comparison shop for insurance policies; decreases out-of-pocket prescription costs for seniors on Medicare; and prohibits insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. Now millions of Americans do not have to watch as loved ones suffer from or succumb to catastrophic illnesses because they can’t afford insurance or their carriers discontinued their policies.

As President Obama has often asserted, however, change does not come easy. To gain passage of his 10-year, $940 billion plan, he faced relentless opposition, scurrilous accusations and rancorous debate. Over the past 13 months, he had to contend with everything from heated summer protests from Tea Party members that decried “ObamaCare” as a representative form of socialism to jousting with recalcitrant Republicans at chilly summit meetings. As recently as his January 27th State of the Union address, political pundits, naysayers and even members of his own party believed his health care reform bill would be D.O.A. when it arrived for a vote in Congress. Despite the odds, he persevered, taking his message to town halls, continuing to reach across the aisle and inspiring thousands to knock on doors and man phone banks.

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  • Dr. Marian Styles-McClintock

    Let’s join forces now and show America that we are supporting the President in BIG numbers.

  • Carolyn Odom

    Thank you, thank you , thank you Mr. Graves. These are the kind of reasoned comments I’ve been waiting to see expressed by other leaders, especially African American leaders. Lest we continue to be confused, health care reform, economic reform and job creation are indeed all a part of a “Black Agenda”, and if some “leaders” cannot understand this, then they need to be replaced by ones who do. This is indeed an historic time for our nation and for our people. In President Obama, we have a leader who is smart enough to understand that all our agendas are interrelated–and, there is no need for separtism or “trickle down”. When the economy is healthy and our people have access to the care that can make them healthy, then we are all better off. We need to add our voices to this mean-spirited, violence-based, divisive dialogue that is currently sweeping our nation. Those who stood up, sat down or marched–and those who benefitted from those actions, need to come together and flood the airwaves and the legislative offices with voices that say, “We too are Americans , we vote, and we pay taxes, and here is what we think about these issues!” Let’s get started now before it’s too late. Mr. Graves and Black Enterprise have provided us with a template!

  • Thomas Waller

    Mr. Graves, thank you so much for your insight. Indeed this was a historic moment, especially for so many who have not had access to healthcare. This will be life changing for so many people in our country. I only wish that all in our country could see that. We have much to celebrate but there is much more that needs to be done. Jobs need to be created. Education for our children needs to be improved. Hunger in our communities and access to healthy food
    must be addressed. Indeed there is work to do. My true hope is that we will galvanize and work on addressing these issues and not be distracted by the divisive tactics that are being used today, that will only lead to a mounting tension that seems to be growing in this country. I can feel it in the air and it truly worries me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  • wtaylorhi@aol.com

    Thank you for writing this commentary. I always knew that this health bill would get through Congress. It got ugly at times but I knew the President would not let it get this far and then drop the ball. I am a volunteer with Organizing For America which is the organization that the President still calls upon us to get active and support his agenda. The past 2 months, we really honed in on this and called Congress members all across the country every day. The President is still a great community organizer as well as a great President. He knows how to get people fired up and take action! I am proud to be apart of his behind the scenes grass roots movement.

  • Stephanie Stevens

    Thank you for writing this commentary. As an insurance agent and a benefits coordinator , I have worked with many people who are no longer able to afford the premiums, who are in a low-income situation, and who would love to get some kind of health insurance to give them some peace of mind. And many times because of preexisting conditions, they are refused. It hurts my heart because i know that without insurance, all it takes is one catastrophic medical emergency to wipe a family out. So i am all for having choices about affordable health coverage for everyone. I am sorry that the President have to go through so much negativity, but in the end it will all be for the best.