With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) surpassing the original target of seven million registrants for coverage, President Obama can now claim a major political victory for his initiative to provide healthcare for all. As someone who proclaims a social gospel and with some history in healthcare I applaud this tremendous feat.
The success of the ACA gives Obama a true legacy. No longer is he just the first black man is the White House but his good attributes combined now with proven results puts him squarely next to the likes of Lincoln (Emancipation), Franklin D. Roosevelt (Social Security), Johnson with Kennedy (Civil Rights) as a champion of one of the most important pieces of social legislation in America.
Generations to come, of all races and ethnicities, will remember him not simply for who he was but for what he did. The uncharacteristic ebullience displayed at the White House during his “victory lap” suggests that the president is fully aware of the significance of this achievement.
However, we should not gloss over the nature of the man. In one of my favourite quotes, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” And in a time of considerable challenge and controversy President Obama stood his ground.
In the face of naysayers, pollsters, interest groups that spent vast sums of money to create confusion and misinformation to undermine the law, and even some members of his own party feeling unsure of the November mid-term elections, following their rout in 2010, Obama has prevailed. The ACA has created a legacy not only for him but new hope for all low-income uninsured Americans.
This victory does not negate the fact that the Affordable Care Act needs fixing; but with the harder task of knowing what to do behind him, attention can now, or after November, be placed squarely on how to get it done, right. “No, the Affordable Care Act hasn’t fixed our long broken health care system, but this law has made our broken system a lot better,” the president stated before a large crowd in the Rose Garden.
If half the energy and resources that went into trying to kill the ACA are redirected towards making it work, the USA will end up with a healthcare system that is the envy of many.
May we never lose the audacity of hope.
Anglican Priest and social development specialist
Former Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados