Whenever I think about health care reform, I am reminded of the song from the film Marry Poppins that goes “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” You would think from the way Conservatives are always blathering on about the moral fiber of America breaking down because no one takes responsibility for their actions anymore, they could use a spoon full of fiber rather than sugar. They warn about the dangers of the “nanny state,” and “socialist ideas,” and deride progressives for “being enemies of success.” At the end of the day, so the conservatives say, it’s a matter of personal responsibility and personal choice.
You know what? I couldn’t agree more. It really comes down to the choice between a thick glass of Metamucil or a smooth glass of sweet tea. Which would you prefer?
Having everyone take responsibility for their own health care started as a Republican idea. And by and large, Americans agree. But a new poll out this week showed many Americans still have a long way to go in understanding what the new healthcare actually does, particularly on the “individual mandate” portion and in the face of continued right-wing attacks on health reform.
Simply stated, the new health care law makes sure everyone takes charge of their own care and gets affordable insurance, because when people without it get sick, the costs get passed down to the rest of us. For health insurance to work, it’s necessary to include people who are healthy to help pay for those are sick. Under the ACA, you can keep the coverage you have. Or, if you don’t like your plan, or don’t have one, you can pick an affordable insurance option to take personal responsibility for yourself and your family.
We have a choice: Everyone can take charge of their own care, or the rest of us can keep paying more when people with no health insurance get sick. It’s that simple. And since nearly 90 million Americans took advantage of the new health law’s prevention benefits last year, it seems the many have made their decision.
Nearly 3 million seniors with Medicare saved $1.5 billion on their medicines, and 24 million took advantage of the new preventive care benefit last year. Nearly 4 million small businesses can now claim tax credits for providing health coverage to their employees, up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions now cannot be denied coverage and 2.5 million more young adults who are now covered through their parents’ health insurance as they finish school or look for a job. I think Julie Andrews herself would sing for joy.
Over 60% of Americans support the individual responsibility provision after they are informed most Americans would still get their health coverage through their employers, and thus wouldn’t be affected by the mandate. These people understand that without it, their neighbors might wait until they are seriously ill to obtain coverage, driving up insurance costs for everyone, or that insurers could (and again would) refuse to cover sick people.
So maybe the next time some blowhard is complaining about Obama forcing healthcare down our throats, you can tell him we do have a choice – Obamacare, or a pill that is even more bitter to swallow.
Kevin J. Rogers, JD is the Policy and Public Affairs Director at Action NC, a state-wide community organizing and advocacy organization. He works extensively in the area of health policy implementation and advocates on behalf consumer access and protection. This post originally appeared on Action NC and the Progressive Pulse.