22 March 2011

Health Care Reform Turns One!

Last month, in the wake of Congressional attempts to repeal health care reform, and just shy of the law's first anniversary this week, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a poll that produced startling results: in total, nearly half the country believed that the Affordable Care Act had either been repealed (22 percent) or didn't know enough to say whether it was still law (26 percent).

Wow. This means that not only is there still great confusion over the content of health care reform -- but that the far-right media machine touted the word "repeal" so much that a huge swath of the country began to think its demise was fait accompli. Which is far from the truth, of course: House Republicans knew their vote was a media stunt from the beginning, as repeal was unlikely to pass in the Senate and President Obama's veto was guaranteed.

To be fair, the Affordable Care Act is a mammoth piece of legislation, and with some of the provisions in effect, but many on hold until 2014, it is difficult for nearly anyone to discern how the law could -- or already does -- benefit them, their neighbors, or the country.

That's why this Wednesday, March 23, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, we must do two things: reeducate ourselves about its benefits, and recommit to doing our own PR for the law.

Our grantees -- national and community-based organizations advocating for women's reproductive rights, health and justice -- will help us teach ourselves and others. On March 23, and into next week, several of them will host webinars and events across the US, share fact sheets [pdf] and other useful materials, and provide a platform for women to tell their stories about how health care reform is already producing meaningful results in their lives.

A year into this historic vote -- thanks to groups like the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, National Women's Law Center, and Raising Women's Voices, a coalition of which many of our grantees are core members -- we have even more information to make our case: Instead of simply discussing what the legislation could do, as we did before it became law, we can now discuss what it is doing -- the tangible difference it has made for women, families and communities to date.

And the stakes couldn't be higher. Amidst the haze of confusion produced by the Right's "job-killing" or deficit-swelling claims, conservative legislators continue to try to chip away at health care reform -- their most recent effort an attempt to deny federal funding for core components of the law. So while many apparently think "repeal" is a done deal, neither should we accept that "reform" is in the bag. Yes, the law is on the books. That is a tremendous victory. But as we celebrate on Wednesday, let's also work to be sure we'll be celebrating for years to come.

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