The ACA. The Affordable Care Act. Obama Care. We haven't even settled on a name. The Act has already begun to provide important benefits. As a senior citizen I now can receive a free annual physical; other important procedures that are needed for my age group will be paid without co-pays. Here is a link to the major provisions of the ACA and how it affects individuals, young people, families, and businesses. Here is Senator Bingham's (D. N.M.) website showing seniors in New Mexico what benefits they now receive, like closing the "donut whole" or coverage gap in Medicare for prescription drugs.
In time all Americans will receive health insurance, and insurance plans will be more standardized, offering similar benefits. The result will be the major outlines of a "system" that can provide the platform for slowing down health care costs.
And I've just covered a few of the major points.
And yet we are today beginning a three-day hearing before the Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of the law, and particularly the law's crucial provision requiring all individuals over 18 to obtain health insurance, and if they don't have money, to apply for insurance subsidized by government. Most observers believe the court will uphold the law but there is a good chance it won't, and we will be back where we started.
Here's the thing. Whatever you think about this plan, from the right or the left, there is something big moving toward us, a regular Tsunami of rising health care costs that will devastate the health field, existing plans, a tidal wave of rising costs that will make reform in 5 to 10 years almost unbelievably more difficult.
The rising health care costs will soon begin to undermine Medicare and Medicaid, and soon, people will start thinking the previously unthinkable: let's get rid of Medicare. Let's get rid of Medicaid.
Loud voices will say, "This chaos is what happens when government gets too big." And gradually we will start unraveling two of the most important programs in the United States.
Who is to blame for this? The easy response is all of us. But that is a lie. The blame goes to the radicalization of one of the two parties, and the rise of a voting bloc who want to wreck what we Americans have cobbled together as the welfare state. The Tea Party crowd, and the old-line right-wing radicals in the GOP were once a desperate minority but no longer. Now they see a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fatally wound the social fabric that sustains the Democrats and that helps most Americans, at one time or another.
And when that "safety net" fades away we will suddenly realize what we have done, and the chances are that a totally confused American public will blame the "big government crowd" for putting us in an untenable situation.
Here is the truth: we need big government. We must have big government. The Affordable Care Act is the least offensive alternative to very big government that we need to slow down Big Health Care Spending. We need big government because we have Big Problems and because we are a Big, Continental Nation.
The United States never seems to want to look in the mirror and grasp just who we are, how large we are, how vast our enterprises and accomplishments are, and how huge our problems have grown because we have leither ost faith in our ability to solve them, or worse, because many on the political right are terrified that we finally will begin to solve our problems.
Whatever else we think of President Obama, no matter what the Supreme Court announces this summer, this case, this issue will put the president in the history books for having the courage of requiring the American public and the American political system to begin to face up to its responsibilities.
Win or lose, history will grant him the courage that he so richly deserves.