Ed Zygmunt: Twin Tiers Perspective: Obamacare is here to stay
April 1, 2014 will forever be a bright spot in American history, as President Obama announced from the White House Rose Garden that more than 7 million Americans secured health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. For these deserving Americans, having quality, affordable health insurance was no April fools' joke. It was a dream that finally came true.
As the President reminded us, this great achievement didn't happen without a struggle. I know exactly what he meant. Chris Carney was in his second term in Congress when the Affordable Care Act became the center of the nation's attention. As his field representative here in the sprawling 10th congressional district, I was Carney's eyes and ears back home while he dutifully served his constituents in the nation's Capital. Believe me, I heard and saw it all.
I remember well those crazy days when the political spin meisters convinced so many Americans that Obamacare death panels were going to kill grandma. My fellow staffers and I still share our tales about the contentious town hall meetings Rep. Carney so bravely held in all 14 counties of his district. And I certainly will never forget the day a county sheriff had to rescue me from a rowdy crowd of Obamacare opponents. It was not a pretty sight.
But those stories meant little compared to the personal tragedies that Rep. Carney and I heard everywhere we traveled in the 10th district. Families losing their homes because they couldn't afford the huge medical bills from a life-threatening illness. Women dropped by their insurance company soon after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Distraught parents desperate to secure insurance coverage for their child with a pre-existing medical condition. I could go on and onâ¦.
So when the time finally arrived for Rep. Carney to cast his crucial vote, there was never any doubt he would place the well-being of his constituents above all else, knowing full well it could mean the end of his political career. And ultimately it did, for a little while anyway.
Now, five years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama proudly declared this historic law was finally working for the vast majority of Americans, despite all the misdeeds of his critics. "Armageddon has not arrived", said the President with a smile.
Along with the 7 million Americans who signed up through the federal exchange, millions more acquired insurance through the 14 state-run exchanges. Three million young adults are now covered under their parents' healthcare plan. And an additional 3 million low-income citizens are insured through Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, except in our state because Gov. Corbett refused it.
Untold numbers with pre-existing medical conditions are finally receiving the care they so desperately needed, many for the first time in their lives. Senior citizens are realizing lower prescription drug costs. Women can receive free preventative care. Insurers must use at least 80 percent of premiums on medical costs or give you a rebate. And every insured American no longer lives in fear of bankruptcy because of the annual medical expense caps mandated by Obamacare.
Sadly, since the President's historic announcement, House Republicans cast their 55th unsuccessful vote to take away every one of these life-saving benefits, including our current representative from the 10th district. This has to be the cruelest April fool's joke of all time.
When it counted most, Chris Carney answered the cry for help from his constituents. We will all enjoy healthier lives because of the courage shown by one BIG man from the small town of Dimock.
And in case you're wondering if Obamacare is here to stay. Well, to borrow a line from that famous Alaskan creator of those imaginary death panels - YOU BETCHA!
Note: Ed Zygmunt served as field representative for U.S. Rep. Christopher P. Carney from 2007 to 2010. He resides in Susquehanna County.