The rollout was a disaster. A website that was supposed to make health insurance reform a reality still wasn't ready for use a month after the official kick-off. White House officials announced delays. Even after it went online, the website was cumbersome to navigate and riddled with problems.
The year was 2005, and the Bush administration had a mess on its hands trying to roll out the President's signature reform initiative, Medicare Part D.
But as Daily Beast writer Michael Tomasky points out, Democrats who opposed Pres. George W. Bush's Part D legislation made sure that once it became law, they helped their constituents access the coverage it provided. Tomasky reminds us that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton went on record saying, "I voted against it, but once it passed I certainly determined that I would try to do everything I could to make sure that New Yorkers understood it, could access it, and make the best of it."
It's a statement that seems remarkable today, if only because it is a cooperative, even-handed commitment to value people over politics.
After President Bush's Part D was signed into law, there was no scramble to the Supreme Court to try to block it, no government shutdown, no epic temper tantrum intended to derail the law. Instead, opponents such as Hillary Clinton rolled up their shirt sleeves and worked to fix Part D's technical problems and get it fully implemented.
They didn't sit on the sidelines then and our union isn't doing so now. Yet a piece this week on Politico imagines - wrongly - that unions are absent from the effort to get people enrolled through HealthCare.gov.
That's news to the 1.6 million members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFL-CIO).
It's certainly news to Jim Dixon, an AFSCME Local 2600 member in Springfield, Ill., who is helping people access Affordable Care Act through his state's insurance exchange website. He's proud of his work to make affordable health insurance a reality for Illinois' uninsured, and we are proud of him and every AFSCME member who does the same across the country. So proud in fact that we publicly wrote about Dixon on our website on Oct. 9: "Illinois AFSCME Members Signing Up the State's 1.8 Million Uninsured."
It was also news to me, because on Oct. 1, I stood with other union leaders and elected officials including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and shared our union's support for the law. We wrote about that on the AFSCME website, too - "Supporters Celebrate Kick-off of Affordable Care Act."
Of course union support doesn't fit the narrative that right-wing ideologues desperately want to create about the Affordable Care Act. It's an inconvenient truth that union members do support the law and we stand with President Obama as he works to bring this essential reform to 48 million uninsured Americans.
Every day, AFSCME members are on the frontlines in unemployment offices, emergency rooms, and every other public facility where the poor and middle class try to find a foothold in a country whose economic terrain is increasingly rocky for all but the wealthy. Our union's members know that it is wrong to deny children with pre-existing conditions the care that will keep them alive. We know that seniors need access to free cancer screenings and affordable prescriptions. We know that insurance companies need to be held accountable.
As we fought for passage of the law for years, we support its full implementation now.
There's no doubt HealthCare.gov was weighed down by technical problems and that there are concerns about the ACA that need to be addressed. But this doesn't mean we should abandon the crucial health care reform that is now, for the first time, the law of the land.
MSNBC's Chris Matthews recently scolded the opportunists cheerleading for the demise of health care for all by crowing about the website's problems: "It's a new rule," Matthews said. "If something doesn't work, you get rid of it! If the post office is late today, let's get rid of the post office! If the plane is late an hour, get rid of airplanes! It's ridiculous!"
Consider this: In its first 24 hours, HealthCare.gov logged 4.7 million unique visits. That's a lot of Americans eager to access what was previously out of reach for them. It also underscores how unrepresentative of American interests the right-wing members of the U.S. House are. At every turn, they're trying to destroy a law that that will improve the lives of working families. Our union will do everything in our power to make sure that the law succeeds.