Victory for patients

“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future” — Speaker Ryan

We did it.

I’m working at the hospital with my patient charts open listening to House Speaker Paul Ryan say, “Obamacare is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.” I can’t even begin to describe what a mixture of relief, elation, and disbelief I am feeling as I type these words. All day, I have been rounding on patients, wondering how many of them would be facing a darker future without the ACA, a future with more worry, uncertainty, and impossible choices. As of right now, the future is brighter.
And why? Because of you. Because despite the questions in our minds of whether our actions mattered, each of you decided to take action. Action big and small. Actions that were new and uncomfortable and nerve-wracking like writing an op-ed for all your friends and neighbors to see. Like standing up in front of a crowd in a white coat. Like calling and meeting with members of Congress and worrying that they would make us feel small, or that we were wasting our time. Like asking other doctors and medical students to believe in their power even when you were uncertain of yours.
Progress is built not on inevitability but on people choosing hope over cynicism, action over complacency, and a love for our patients over fear of failure. Today and over the past eight years, we have proven that if we hang onto one another and even a small wisp of hope that we can still bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice. Justice for the mother with diabetes who just wants to be well and guide her children into adulthood. Justice for the writer with cancer who wants to focus on finishing his book before it’s too late instead of calling insurance companies begging them not to cut him off. Justice for the child who survived a heart transplant and wants to know whether he can pursue his dreams when he grows up knowing he will be covered no matter what career path he chooses. Justice for 24 million people who came this close to becoming uninsured.
The work we each do did not begin with the fight to pass the ACA, nor does it end today. Those who sought to take away our patients’ care are not finished, and neither are we.
Tomorrow, we must continue to make health care better and more affordable for our most vulnerable patients. We must continue to be vigilant about ways our ability to care for our patients is threatened. We must continue to take action and stand in strength so our patients know that someone is willing to speak up for them when they feel lost and alone. We must be there each time a policymaker or any other powerful party tries to do wrong by our patients. We must remain standing to ensure that everyone in America has access to equitable, affordable, high-quality health care. We must keep speaking up to make the system better and to make our society better, to make sure our patients have nutritious food and communities safe from gun violence, that they have clean air to breathe and affordable medications, that we will care for them regardless of their faith, the color of their skin, or whom they choose to love. We must keep pushing our nation to put patients over politics and ensure that everyone in America can get up in the morning knowing that they matter.
The power of our collective voices has never been more clear. That is why I know we must be even stronger, more ready, and more resourced to take up the mantle of whatever challenges and opportunities lie ahead. That is why I close this note of celebration and reflection with one more request:
Alice Chen, MD
Executive Director
Affordable Care Act