Taken from the July/August 2015 issue of The Women's Health Activist Newsletter.
As I write this, Network staffers are celebrating the Supreme Court decision in the King v. Burwell case (and the marriage equality cases, too!). I am not afraid to admit that we were worried. If the Supreme Court had decided against us, 6.3 million people in 34 states would have lost the financial subsidies that make their health insurance affordable.1 Instead, we’re busy getting the word out that #ACAHereToStay.
This is the third time in four years that we’ve spent the month of June waiting, hoping…and planning. I really don’t like having to pencil in “plan for Supreme Court decision” into my June calendar every year. It’s downright annoying to have our work revolve around the Supreme Court’s schedule. But, that’s what it takes to ensure that women have access to health care, so that’s what we do.
We were ready to respond to a bad decision, but it’s much more rewarding to respond to a good decision. Now is the time to press forward and finish the job we started. We’re speaking up about how much more needs to be done to cover the 12 percent of people who still remain without insurance.2 We’re mobilizing the network of Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinators – who work all over the country, from Louisiana to Maine – and helping them partner with women in their states to expand access to coverage.
When I feel demoralized by the attacks against the ACA, I look to Medicare for inspiration. When Medicare was proposed in the early 1960s to provide insurance to older Americans and those with disabilities, it was vehemently opposed by the American Medical Association and many business associations.3 As a result, public opinion about the new program was divided.4 Opposition to Medicare continued for years, but eventually opponents accepted that the program was going to continue. Nowadays, Medicare is the most popular of all major Federal programs, and the attacks against it stopped long ago.5
Opponents of the ACA have dreamt up many ways to attack the law – lawsuits, repeal votes, Federal shutdowns. They’ve succeeded in restricting abortion coverage in many states, and contraceptive coverage in too many workplaces. They’ve fomented opposition to accepting Federal funds to expand Medicaid, leaving 4.8 million people in 21 states in a coverage gap.6 Public opinion about the law is split.7
This is our challenge. We have to keep fighting to right these wrongs, ensure that everyone who could be covered by the ACA gets covered, and then bring in everyone who is currently without coverage. I’m glad the Supreme Court didn’t make this goal harder for us, but even if we have to go through another month of June with “plan for Supreme Court decision” on our calendars, I know that we’re on right path and — as with Medicare — history will prove our support for the ACA to have been the right course of action.
Cindy Pearson was the NWHN’s Executive Director from 1996 to 2021. One of the nation's leading advocates for women's health, Cindy often testified before Congress, NIH and the FDA and was frequently featured in the news as a consumer expert on women’s health issues. When she retired, Cindy received a Congressional Resolution in honor of her outstanding contributions to the health of women and girls.
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1. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), State-by-State Effects of a Ruling for the Challengers in King v. Burwell, Menlo Park, CA: KFF, no date. Available online at: http://kff.org/interactive/king-v-burwell-effects/.
2. Levy J, In U.S., Uninsured Rate Dips to 11.9% in First Quarter, Gallup, no date. Available online at http://www.gallup.com/poll/182348/uninsured-rate-dips-first-quarter.aspx.
3. Kristof N, “The Wrong Side of History,” New York Times, November 18, 2009, p A-35. Available online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/19/opinion/19kristof.html.
4. Klein E, “Wonkbook: Was Medicare popular when it passed?” Washington Post, March 17, 2010. Available online at: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/03/was_medicare_popular_when_it_p.html.
5. The Harris Poll, Medicare, Crime-fighting, Social Security, Defense – the Most Popular Federal Government Services — Harris Poll #5, January 14, 2010. Available online at: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/mid/1508/ArticleId/257/Default.aspx
6. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), A Closer Look at the Impact of State Decisions Not to Expand Medicaid on Coverage for Uninsured Adults, Menlo Park CA: KFF, April 24, 2014. Available online at: http://kff.org/medicaid/fact-sheet/a-closer-look-at-the-impact-of-state-decisions-not-to-expand-medicaid-on-coverage-for-uninsured-adults.
7. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: The Public’s Views on the ACA, Menlo Park CA: KFF, no date. Available online at: http://kff.org/interactive/tracking-opinions-aca/#?response=Favorable--Unfavorable&aRange=all.