The news: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell voiced his support for Obamacare, or a “son of Obamacare” earlier this week.
Powell said he doesn't see why the United States "can't do what Europe is doing, what Canada is doing, what Korea is doing, what all these other places are doing."
Powell’s endorsement is important, not only because of his party affiliation, but because it comes at a time when Obamacare is constantly under attack. Between the failed website launch, the difficulties arising from cancelled policies, and a fear that the younger, healthier, citizens may not sign up, this has not been a great few months for President Obama’s signature piece of legislation. Powell, speaking at a fundraiser sponsored by the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle on December 6 as a prostate cancer survivor, pointed out that the U.S. is a wealthy enough country to be able to protect its citizens if they get sick and threw his support behind the Affordable Care Act. Since his diagnosis and treatment in 2003, Powell has become a prominent activist for early screenings and prevention.
The background: Powell and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval are the two most prominent Republicans to speak out in favor of Obamacare. Since the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012, it has faced increasing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. The website’s rollout in October was disastrous; users were unable to register and it made an already complex law even harder to understand. Obama repeatedly promised citizens that they would be able to keep their plans, only to backtrack when insurance companies began sending out letters to the customers of cancelled plans. The compulsory insurance for small businesses has been postponed for an additional year. Obama’s legacy rests on a good implementation of the law, and if the right mix of healthy and unhealthy, young and old, do not meet the March 31 registration deadline, the Democrats risk losing the Senate in addition to the House in the 2014 elections.
The takeaway: This is not the first time Powell has spoken out in Obama’s favor. As Obamacare has already been enacted and the Supreme Court has refused to hear further challenges to the law, it would be great to see more bipartisan support and a concerted political effort to implement the law in the easiest way possible. While the law is not unproblematic, preventing families from choosing between getting their loved ones medical care or remaining financially stable seems like a reasonable proposition – and Colin Powell, as a cancer survivor, might just help the rest of America remember that.