Promises of policies and programs are often rhetorically waved around like colorful flags at political gatherings to catch the eye and distract from details like how they’d work and for whom. But suddenly people stop and stand still when a real person emerges to tell their story about how that policy or program directly impacts them. That’s what happened in 1992 when the late Bob Hattoy spoke about being a gay man with AIDS at the Democratic Convention that nominated Bill Clinton; and Hattoy in turn, introduced a straight white woman from Hollywood named Elizabeth Glaser, who’d been living with HIV for 11 years. Suddenly the terrifying disease was humanized. Mary Fisher, a rich straight white woman artist who talked about gays and straights battling the then-still fatal disease, did the same for Republicans at the same convention in which Patrick Buchanan darkly declared the “culture war” in America. Fisher is still very much alive and working as an artist and AIDS activist.
On Tuesday night, Sept. 4, the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, Stacey Lihn, a mom caring for a baby daughter with a heart condition, joined the ranks of memorable first-person accounts of how policies and programs such as the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare matter to real people. Though I was disappointed that at least one of the Democratic speakers didn’t talk about HIV/AIDS or mention how ObamaCare declares that employers and insurers cannot deny healthcare coverage based on gender identity – the speech by Lihn had me choking back tears and wondering how Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan – who wanted to repeal and “replace” ObamaCare – will counter this incredible story.
Here’s Rachel Maddow on MSNBC setting up the video introduction and Lihn’s speech on stage (via Mediaite).
Here’s MSNBC contributor and Washington Post brain Ezra Klein explaining ObamaCare (h/t hungrycoyote via Daily Kos):
And the transcript of Klein’s comments, also via hungrycoyote:
Rachel, thank you very much. That was incredibly powerful. One of the sort of amazing things that’s begun happening in the last few months in healthcare politics is the Obama Administration and Republicans have kind of come to an agreement on health reform. Not on the law, itself, or any of the policies therein; certainly not on lifetime caps. They’re still at each others throats on all that, but they’ve come to agree on what to call it. Now a days, both sides are calling it ObamaCare and what’s even stranger, Democrats are even talking about it again. But as I say, polls show that most Americans still aren’t sure what’s in it [See Americans still don’t know what’s in the health reform law. They may not care either., The Washington Post, November 30, 2011]. And the fact is, some folks in Washington actually like it that way.
Over the last few years there’s been a concerted effort to convince folks that health reform is just kind of too complicated for them to understand. It’s a 2,000-page dense, technical bill that no one has read. And two points on that. First, yes, people have read it. I travel in circles of healthcare wonks; they read it. But second, most legislation in D.C. goes unread. Instead, members of Congress and their staffs read clear English summaries that the Congressional Research Service produces for them, which is what they should do. And ObamaCare or health reform or whatever you want to call it, it just isn’t that hard to summarize. And we’re going to do it here in less than 200 words.
The bill has three main parts. There are exchanges, which are basically websites where you can buy insurance if you don’t already have it and where insurers have to tell you in very clear language what is in their plans and how much everything cost. If they’re not transparent, they get kicked out. There are subsidies; you get those on a sliding scale based upon your income to help you afford health insurance if you can’t buy it on your own. And if you really don’t make much at all, you get full Medicaid benefits. There are regulations to keep insurers from discriminating against folks with pre-existing conditions and to help healthy folks from going without insurance, that’s the individual mandate. And that’s really the bulk of the bill. Beyond that, the bill is paid for mainly with cuts to what we pay private insurers and hospitals with Medicare, and with various new taxes. It’s got a bunch of efforts to try to figure out how to move Medicare away from paying for volume, which it does now, and towards paying for quality.
It’s expected to cut the deficit by about 109 billion in most recent estimates and insure about 30 million people. That will leave we should say about 30 million other people uninsured. About half of those folks are illegal immigrants; half of them are just people who’ve decided not to buy healthcare insurance. The other thing that is really important here speaks to the unsettled nature to the politics; the bill mainly takes effect in 2014. That’s when the expanded Medicaid, the individual mandate, where everyone has to buy insurance, and the subsidies for people who need help. That’s when all of that really comes into effect. So, this election is really going to decide the fate of health reform. If Mr. Romney takes office, he said he’ll begin repealing it on day one, despite it’s based on the health reforms he passed in Massachusetts. If Mr. Obama wins election, the law is pretty clearly here to stay. As once it begins insuring tens of millions of Americans, giving benefits like it is to the Lihn family, it’s not going anywhere.
The following is a transcript of a speech, as prepared for delivery, by Stacey Lihn at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, September 4, 2012:
Governor Romney says people like me were the most excited about President Obama the day we voted for him.
But that’s not true. Not even close.
For me, there was the day the Affordable Care Act passed and I no longer had to worry about Zoe getting the care she needed.
There was the day the letter arrived from the insurance company, saying that our daughter’s lifetime cap had been lifted.
There was the day the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare.
Like so many moms with sick children, I shed tears and I could breathe easier knowing we have that net below us to catch us if we fall, or if, God forbid, Zoe needs a heart transplant—Obamacare provides my family security and relief.
But we’re also scared. Governor Romney repealing health care reform is something we worry about literally every day. Zoe’s third open-heart surgery will happen either next year or the year after.
If Mitt Romney becomes president and Obamacare is repealed, there’s a good chance she’ll hit her lifetime cap.
There’s no way we could afford to pay for all the cares needs to survive. When you have a sick child, it’s always in the back of your mind and sometimes in the front of your mind.
On top of that, to worry that people would let an insurance company take away her health care, just because of politics?
One in 100 children is born with a congenital heart defect. President Obama is fighting for them. He’s fighting.
For families like mine.
And we need To fight for him.