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Healing the healthcare debate

In the past week, the news cycle has been jam-packed with a stream of controversial proclamations courtesy of President Trump’s Twitter account and heated debates over hot button topics. This includes a dramatic continuation of the long fought battle against the Affordable Care Act waged by Republicans that has been a reoccurring to-do item since Republicans took control of Congress. The rhetoric around healthcare has remained the same since Obamacare was first introduced, centering around the ideals of freedom of choice, the role of the market and costs of coverage. However, it’s easy to become desensitized to the consequences of debates that usually had in terms of numbers and budgets. The most recent attempt at repeal has further emphasized the morbid way healthcare and death are talked about in the political sphere, a trend that needs to be addressed and ended.

After days of clashing and desperate attempts to scrape together votes, the latest repeal died in the senate chambers in the early hours of Friday, July 28. Outside of Congress, protesters cheered and exchanged hugs when they received the news. Those claps and tears came after countless hours of phone calls, emails, and protests in hopes that their elected officials would decide to not condemn them to death. While this was a moment of joy and hard-fought victory, when it’s observed from outside of the American mindset of healthcare policy, sick and indebted people sobbing in joy as a repeal was nearly avoided is chilling. The GOP’s commitment to repealing the ACA has taken on the form of fighting for the right to die without coverage, rather than a representation of the needs and interests of Americans.

Poor and sick families have had to come out in droves for years, telling stories of death, debilitating illness and fear in order to defend a move towards more holistic coverage opportunities. After the election, town halls across the country filled with angry constituents demanding representation. Republicans were confronted with stories about going into debt while fighting cancer and family members that have died from lack of coverage. In a certain light, this could appear to be a strong and powerful exercise of holding politicians accountable. However, there’s something troubling about the fact that low income and working class citizens are being forced to take time to try and explain to their representative that healthcare investment is crucial and that their lives are worth protecting.

While the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect by any means and doesn’t achieve full coverage for everyone, the way it’s discussed as the center of the healthcare debate is dehumanizing and a toxic example how basic compassion is being lost among the commitment to repeal the major policy legacy of Barack Obama. The most recent attempt was an emotional rollercoaster for so many beneficiaries of the ACA; their lives have been ascribed numbers and turned into partisan talking points to denote party loyalty. The American people deserve so much more.


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