On March 21, 2010, I watched the roll call of the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote on the Affordable Care Act with my mom and dad.
My mom, who was terminally ill, could barely keep her eyes open, but she squeezed my hand as I held hers in celebration of the decisive votes. Exactly a month later, she died.
In the years since, our political polarization has grown significantly, and the Affordable Care Act became fodder for right-wing talk radio and the Republican Party, which gained electoral seats on the promise of repealing “Obamacare.” Their criticisms over the 14-month process that led to the passage of the bill, and their subsequently quixotic attempts to repeal the ACA after they took the U.S. House, became a rallying call for the party and the entire conservative movement. Some criticisms of the ACA were grounded in legitimate policy concerns, while others were purely political.
The desire to gain a political win rather than actually do public service is galling.
While Obamacare has its flaws and the program’s rollout was not well executed, it has covered more than 22 million people, expanded Medicaid, and ensured that the working poor have access to health insurance. It’s also stabilized medical costs, and lowered the number of uninsured in this country. Moreover, many forms of preventive care ― including mammograms ― are free under the law.
Even if the Republicans ran on a plan of repealing the ACA, Thursday’s vote to repeal it and replace it with something that every major health group opposes ― and takes away coverage for millions ― is careless and callous. Moreover, as conservative writer Andrew Sullivan notes, the AHCA (Trumpcare) shows that the American right has given up on moral decency. To me, the desire to gain a political win rather than actually do public service is galling, and it should remind us as Americans that those we elect often do not represent what we actually want. It should be noted that the AHCA is deeply unpopular in many GOP congressional districts as well.
The more important point is that health care is personal, and it saves lives. Taking away one’s health care is never an improvement over flawed health care. Moreover, voting for something without taking into account both policy ramifications and the human toll is breathtakingly indifferent. The way the GOP has approached the Affordable Care Act is tantamount to taking a sledgehammer to destroy a sink in order to fix a drippy faucet. And they haven’t even bothered to defend their actions, showing their belief that this is all just a cold political calculation rather than a sincere policy discussion.
I am not going to speculate on the political consequences of the vote, or even whether anything that resembles this bill will ever become law, since many others have done so more articulately. But I wonder if we have come to a moment in our recent American history when the notion of common values has become so transparently undone.
It’s ironic that something like the horror of the AHCA’s passage could get us to talk about what a better American health care system could look like. And what’s more ironic is that while the AHCA passed the House, President Trump also praised Australia’s universal health care system. In their attempts to destroy the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans may have just galvanized the country around the idea of universal health care.
The views expressed by the author are his alone and do not reflect the official position of the Hindu American Foundation.