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Affordable Care Act: A huge step forward

1199Seiu | , George Gresham President | 7/6/2012, 11:07 a.m.
Last week's Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)...
George Gresham, President 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

Last week's Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) represented a resounding victory for fairness, justice and equality in our nation. The decision is not just an academic exercise about federal and states' rights, it is about life and death for millions of Americans.

In fact, some 32 million Americans--disproportionately African-American and Latino--are celebrating the fact that they will finally have health insurance. Joining them in celebration are the 6 million young adults who will remain covered by their parents' insurance and seniors who will continue to save millions on prescription drugs. More than 105 million Americans will continue to benefit from the elimination of lifetime limits.

The decision is a huge victory for women, who are 70 percent of Medicaid recipients over the age of 14. Being a woman will no longer be considered a pre-existing condition by insurance companies that charge women more than men for the same coverage. Similarly, they will no longer be denied health coverage for having survived domestic violence or rape or having had a Caesarean section. Maternity care will now be included in all health care plans, and preventive health services like mammograms, birth control and well-woman visits will be covered with no co-pay or deductible.

Nor will insurers be able to deny coverage to our children because of pre-existing conditions. The ruling keeps in place provisions such as the continued financing of the Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers children whose families' incomes fall into the gap between Medicaid eligibility and being able to afford private insurance.

One million more New Yorkers will gain coverage, and the creation of a health care exchange will make it possible for those without employer-based coverage to purchase insurance. Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be commended for moving quickly to establish the exchange.

The ruling is also a monumental defeat for the extremist forces that are determined to turn back the clock, who put profits over people and who are committed to the defeat of President Barack Obama by any means necessary.

This is not the time for complacency, however. The decision is a first step on our road to quality, affordable health care for all and ultimately a single-payer system. But that road is long.

Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, the GOP leaders in Congress and Tea Party-styled legislators across the country will step up their campaigns to repeal and defund ACA. And they will have a lot of help from big-money interests.

A June 26 analysis by Public Campaign and Alliance for a Just Society, two progressive political reform groups, found that the National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB), the lead plaintiff in the ACA suit, is a highly partisan group masquerading as the nation's leading small business association. Through its connection to wealthy extremists, NFIB was able to fund the Supreme Court challenge on its own.

Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS is among NFIB's major funders. NFIB also has close ties to the billionaire Koch brothers' American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Crossroads GPS and ALEC count among the major groups that are attempting to strangle our democracy through initiatives such as voter purges, anti-labor laws, shoot-first amendments and the elimination of women's health programs.Their very top priority is waging a scorched-earth campaign to bring down Obama, and their bought media will do its part by continuing to mug the truth. Fox News, for example, has refused to apologize for its premature and fraudulent announcement that ACA's individual mandate had been struck down.

But the ACA victory demonstrates that we can make our voices heard, and that through our united efforts, a more humane, just and equitable nation is possible. We must take the ACA victory and build on it to ultimately achieve quality, affordable health care coverage for every man, woman and child in our nation. The re-election of our president is the next step on that path.