After the months of speculation and partisan bickering the Supreme Court finally handed down a decision on the fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The act, with the individual mandate intact, stands. Celebrations on the left and anger on the right dominated the Thursday news cycle. Democrats can gloat and Republicans can stomp their feet all they want, but what neither party seems to fully grasp is what this law will actually do for the country.
The Supreme Court ruling is not just a victory for a political party or the president, but for 30 million Americans that will now be able to afford health insurance. The President made this clear and brought this message home in his first address to the American people after the ruling was handed down. He could have relived the political battle and basked in the glow of victory, but instead he used his time to explain exactly what impact this piece of legislation will have for millions of Americans.
In the highly bitter, polarized political culture we exist in today it is easy to forget that pieces of legislation like the Affordable Care Act are not just battles to be fought, but legislation deals with real people and creating positive change in the lives of everyday citizens. It is too easy to get sucked into the partisan wrangling and poisonous rhetoric (this is true of both sides of the aisle) and forget that this legislation is making change in the lives of real Americans. It is easy to oppose granting insurance to millions when you talk about it in abstract political terms and statistics. In fact, 38% of Americans polled in a February Gallup survey believed that the Affordable Care Act would actually worsen their own health care situation. The White House has released a host of statistics of how many people benefit from the PPACA, but as long as the administration continues using large numbers, people will never understand the tangible benefits they gain from the act.
President Obama understands this, and chose to highlight the case of Natoma Canfield, a cancer survivor who was forced to give up her health insurance because her premiums became too high to afford. It is stories like this that will build support for the health care law. Not numbers or statistics, but people.
The fierce, hyper-partisan debate that surrounded the PPACA and the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling is indicative of our diseased political culture that has infected individuals from the local to the federal level. Government no longer seems to be creating good policy that benefits Americans, but rather it is about winning a political battle. Politics has always been a game of sorts, but everyday Americans should never have to be the losers. Our political culture needs to shift back to creating good, effective policy that helps people, not beating the person on the other side of the aisle. It’s just too bad that the Affordable Care Act can’t cure our sick politics too.