Officials Forum: Keep America Moving Forward with Health Care for All

Written by

U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel
U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel The Honorable Charles B. Rangel is serving his 22nd term as the Representative from the 13th Congressional District, which stretches from upper Manhattan to northwest Bronx. A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, he made history as the first African American member of Congress to lead the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He is a member of the Joint Committee on Taxation.

America boasts eighteen of the world’s top twenty hospitals. Heads of state from around the globe regularly seek out our doctors for treatment. This is where Dr. Robert Jarvik famously invented the Jarvik-7 artificial heart – generally considered the height of medical technology.

We devote the largest percentage of our GDP to health care (over 16 percent) of any country. Yet survey after survey ranks our health care system firmly in the middle of the pack. We fall far behind world leaders such as Australia, Germany, and Sweden in numerous health metrics. Perhaps most troubling, our health care system is plagued by a level of inequality that is shocking for a global leader

Our country was founded on the belief that all men are created equal, and as such we should be the frontrunner in the effort to provide affordable healthcare to everyone. Unfortunately for over 100 years we lagged behind. In 1912, Norway instituted the world’s first universal single-payer health care system, which sparked a trend over the next century of developed nations guaranteeing medical coverage for their citizens. By 1990, countries as diverse as Kuwait, Portugal, and South Korea had enacted universal health care plans funded through a single-payer system or an insurance mandate.

Republican President Theodore Roosevelt led America’s first attempt to introduce universal health care the same year Norway implemented its groundbreaking program. It took a century for the United States to finally achieve this arduous goal. I was proud to shepherd the health care reform bill through the House Ways and Means Committee and stand by President Barack Obama as he signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, now more commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It was a victory realized by countless organizations and people who passionately advocated for health care reform against special interest groups and Republicans dead set on maintaining the status quo.

Eighty-six million Americans who have received vital preventative services without sky-high copayments can attest that the ACA represents a momentous step forward for the nation. People are no longer forced to make the impossible choice between their health and their financial security – in a country that prides itself on top-notch health care, equality, and exceptionalism.

With the passage of the ACA, we joined the global effort to ensure accessible and affordable health care for everyone. In June of this year the Supreme Court will rule whether to uphold the ACA, and decide whether the United States is going to continue its march forward or take a giant leap backward in its effort to overhaul our health care system. Republicans have made it clear: they want to undermine or repeal the ACA and return to being the wealthiest country that fails to provide affordable health care for all its citizens.

Republicans reject an America where everyone, including our financially and medically vulnerable citizens, share in the benefits of the world’s most advanced health care system. Without the ACA, we risk turning our backs on those of us who cannot afford even the most basic health care needs. We should ask Republicans why they want to dismantle this law and consequently deprive 30 million Americans of their coverage and set America back decades in our progress toward universal health care.

My Democratic colleagues and I disagree that providing health care for everyone is too costly; this is a short-sighted notion of health care economics. It is expensive for insurers to charge outrageous copayments for mammograms, colonoscopies and cancer screenings, forcing millions of Americans to wait until they get sick to seek treatment. It is also imprudent to kick young adults off of their parents’ health insurance plans, which causes the number of uninsured to skyrocket. We should instead focus on cutting costs in the long term by encouraging Americans of all ages take a proactive and preventative approach to their health.

It is not by coincidence that the world’s most advanced countries have overwhelmingly adopted universal health coverage. The fiscally responsible and moral choice is clear. I urge the Court to uphold the ACA and not interfere with the efforts of Congress and the President to keep America moving forward and to make comprehensive health care a reality.

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