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Thoughts from the Waiting Room

By Greg Kueterman on October 21, 2013 in Civic Blog
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Now that the dust is settling from the unnecessary and self-induced drama in our nation’s capital, it’s important to step back and absorb what this was all about.

Most people understand the government shutdown and near collapse of our financial foundation were about health care (more specifically, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare ). Of course, some far right conservatives – citing a higher power than the U.S. Supreme Court – still claim the law is unconstitutional. And when they felt blowback in the polls, the shutdown was no longer about Obamacare at all. They started calling it “President Obama’s shutdown” and “Harry Reid’s shutdown.”

As Jon Stewart said one night on The Daily Show, “Don’t fart and then point at the dog.” But I digress…..

People such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are so obsessed with stepping on the throat of the ACA that they’ll do pretty much anything to maim the law. And frankly, it’s fine that they don’t like it. It’s a free country (even if they think it’s not). And even the law’s supporters have conceded its imperfections. If you’re waiting around for the perfect law to be created, you’re going to have a long wait.

But what we never seem to hear from ACA opponents is a Plan B.

Before the ACA was passed, we saw endless news reels of older Americans traveling by bus to Canada to purchase cheaper prescription drugs. We heard stories of people who would visit emergency rooms dozens of times a year for simple medical issues because they knew it was an avenue to avoiding payment (Kaiser Health News reported that 80,000 people in 2011 tried to get ER services for non-emergency services). And we read devastating stories about people who couldn’t afford to seek out treatment for life-threatening diseases – short of selling their homes, if they owned one.

So when the ACA is attacked, alternatives are needed. How are people in need supported under an alternative plan? When your car breaks down, you don’t just haul it to salvage and refuse to drive again. You fix it – or you find something better.

Now, we have something better (albeit with warts that can be fixed over time). And Foxnews.com, of all places, pointed this out nicely by underscoring five reasons Americans already love Obamacare– reasons such as allowing children, up to age 26, to be covered by their parents’ insurance, by preventing insurance companies from disqualifying you from coverage because of a pre-existing illness, and by requiring the state insurance exchanges to be driven by the private sector.

Just like with the government shutdown itself, you can’t pick and choose your favorite parts of the ACA, preserve them, and jettison those that don’t apply to you. All Americans – from the youngest to oldest, from the poorest to richest – have a right to health care.

Now, can we get back to governing?

Greg Kueterman is the Director of Government Legislation; Access and Public Policy Issues at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis. He’s a former newspaper reporter who never really dreamed that four years of journalism school would lead to tweeting 140 characters at a time — but now he kind of likes it (@GregKueterman). A graduate of Indiana University, Greg’s a big fan of NFL football, bike trails and non-fiction. He blogs professionally at LillyPad, where he focuses on Life at Lilly issues, including policies that affect the pharmaceutical industry and the company’s focus on innovation.