Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Affordable medical care is personal

Last week, we described the economic benefits, especially for small businesses, of the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The court's decision, however, is not only about economics and personal freedom. It triggered raw emotions because it really centers on personal stories of illness and fear.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is from south Florida and is chair of the Democratic National Committee. She normally lives in the no-holds-barred section of the political arena. When she was asked about her own feelings about the Supreme Court decision, this normally tough, direct politician choked up.

In an e-mail to supporters last week, she explained why. "In 2007, I heard the words no woman wants to hear: 'You have breast cancer.' I remember sitting in the hospital after my surgery, waiting for a test to come back, wondering how many more birthdays I would get with my kids, how many more anniversaries I'd get with my husband. I don't care how strong you are: It's a terrifying moment."

Wasserman Schultz can afford medical care. She does not need Medicaid. Her reaction captured what it means to be seriously ill even when you have the means to pay for care. Imagine how much worse it is for those who do not.

"The Supreme Court decision to uphold 'Obamacare' is a big deal for millions of Americans like me," she said. "But the fight to protect it is far from over."

The citizens of this republic, by and large all of us, may now have a guarantee to protect us from financial ruin resulting from a serious illness or accident. It is an achievement that has eluded lawmakers since the days of President Franklin Roosevelt.

Elected officials should now focus on making that guarantee work rather than re-fighting old battles. The time for slogans is passed. The Supreme Court ruling has set as the law of the land the beginning of a solution for one of our most difficult problems, affordable health care for all citizens.

The time to be about finishing the job is now.

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