HEALTHCARE IS A CIVIL RIGHT
By Monsignor William J. Linder
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, how fitting it is that millions of Americans are finally able to see a doctor because they now have health insurance. About 8 million uninsured individuals had signed up for coverage through the new Health Insurance Exchanges by the March 31st deadline, according to President Obama. By the end of this year, 12 million people who previously lacked insurance will have managed to obtain it, with that number projected to jump to 26 million by 2017.
In a recent speech paying tribute to the Civil Rights Act, Obama heaped an abundance of praise on the late President Lyndon B. Johnson. Not only did laws like the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act pass on Johnson’s watch, he also signed the legislation that created Medicaid and Medicare, the latter of which opponents compared to “socialized medicine that would curtail America’s freedom.” Sound familiar?
I believe healthcare is very much a civil right, just like a decent job and decent wages, as Obama has acknowledged. Despite all the naysayers who have talked up cost escalations and made other gloomy predictions about the Affordable Care Act, there is already evidence to the contrary. The rate of uninsured has dropped from 18 percent to about 15.6 percent and will continue to go down.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also reports that the new program will end up costing $104 billion less than anticipated over the next decade, with the pricetag this year alone being $5 billion less than originally predicted. I would be the first to admit that the roll-out of so-called “Obamacare” was a disaster. But once the technical issues were fixed, we were able to witness a new healthcare landscape taking shape.
People’s lives are being changed. The newlaw is a permanent and vitally important component of our social safety net. The President’s appeal for it to cease being used as a “political football” should be heeded. Healthcare is a basic civil right that every human being—regardless of socioeconomic status—deserves. Let’s give it a chance to work.