Last week, on a day full of victories, the President of the United States visited Boston to defend the Affordable Care Act. He began his historic appearance at Faneuil Hall with the self-deprecating and not altogether untrue observation that his visit was not the biggest event of the day, given the Red Sox World Series game that night.
The President’s appearance was capped off with a wonderful introduction by Governor Patrick, who, with the President waiting in the wings, suggested that he would take the opportunity to introduce all of us to the President (watch the video above to see both the Governor’s and the President’s speech).
We thank Governor Patrick for detailing some of the remarkable consumer stories represented in the audience, mentioning the hard working and often unsung advocates who worked tirelessly for reform’s success, and telling the unvarnished truth of some of the challenges of implementing reform. Governor Patrick discussed the challenges of bringing various stakeholders to the health care reform table to hammer out a shared vision and set of goals founded on the rock solid certainty that health care is a human right and a public good.
There was poetry in the choice of Faneuil Hall for the President’s speech, as many in attendance were also present in April 2006 for the Chapter 58 signing ceremony. I hope that the President enjoyed being surrounded by people who are living with and grateful for the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. I am also hopeful that this event will be part of what turns the tide in favor of the ACA. Plenty of comments can be made about the national website snafu. We know that health care reform is more than a website. The truth is that there is power in gathering people who have had their lives improved by this law, and there is no better balm to quell the fears of patients and health care consumers than hearing directly from people just like them. People who have navigated the system, have been living with health reform for more than 7 years, and can sleep better at night knowing that they will not have to choose between bankruptcy and a needed operation, or between paying rent and taking their child to a check-up.
Our system and the Affordable Care Act are not perfect, but they are a huge improvement over the status quo in most states. Change is tough but the President and the insured people of Massachusetts invite our friends in other states to try it, and like it. Sign up for health insurance. Find a doctor or health care provider with whom you feel comfortable and then take your insurance for a spin, either for an annual preventive check-up, or to address a problem or concern.
Health Care For All can boast credit for delivering more than 20 consumers to the White House staff members who were responsible for organizing the event. Most of the people we suggested were incorporated either on the stage or in the audience. Of the people on stage, 17 were HCFA staff, partners, or consumers. Even a week later, we are still walking a bit above the ground after the President’s historic appearance, and we hope that he will return again when he needs to be reminded face to face of what the successful implementation of Obamacare looks like. Thank you Mr. President.
-Amy Whitcomb Slemmer