When President Barack Obama today signed into law legislation that will enable millions of Americans to gain access to health care insurance, he delivered on the promise he held since launching his audacious journey to the White House: Change we can believe in. With the 219-212 House vote late Sunday night, he achieved a historic milestone that eluded seven previous presidents–Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Clinton–over a span of more than 60 years. In doing so, he demonstrated that his brand of intelligent, can-do leadership can defeat the forces of resistance no matter how pernicious. Nothing will hold him back in his mission of remaking our nation into one that offers parity and prosperity.
President Obama has created a nation with insurance for all. In fact, after the House vote, Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), the highest-ranking African American in Congress, said he considered “this to be the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century”–an array of federal policies that would dramatically restructure health care delivery for generations to come. The ground-breaking legislation requires most American citizens and legal residents to purchase health insurance as well as covers an additional 32 million people through Medicaid, subsidies to families and tax credits to small businesses. Among other initiatives, the package also creates a health care exchange in which uninsured individuals and small businesses can comparison shop for insurance policies; decreases out-of-pocket prescription costs for seniors on Medicare; and prohibits insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. Now millions of Americans do not have to watch as loved ones suffer from or succumb to catastrophic illnesses because they can’t afford insurance or their carriers discontinued their policies.
As President Obama has often asserted, however, change does not come easy. To gain passage of his 10-year, $940 billion plan, he faced relentless opposition, scurrilous accusations and rancorous debate. Over the past 13 months, he had to contend with everything from heated summer protests from Tea Party members that decried “ObamaCare” as a representative form of socialism to jousting with recalcitrant Republicans at chilly summit meetings. As recently as his January 27th State of the Union address, political pundits, naysayers and even members of his own party believed his health care reform bill would be D.O.A. when it arrived for a vote in Congress. Despite the odds, he persevered, taking his message to town halls, continuing to reach across the aisle and inspiring thousands to knock on doors and man phone banks.