When the House of Representatives successfully passed an Obamacare replacement plan last week, I was attending a conference on healthcare innovation. I was physically in a place that embraced a forward trajectory while my country was insisting on moving backwards.
I was in two places at once, and I had no idea how to bridge that divide. It weighed heavily on my mind as I drove to Taos, New Mexico for a long weekend. I couldn’t shake what this legislation meant for those who are mid-treatment. I thought about my friend who survived sexual assault and how she will face higher premiums simply because a rapist picked her. I thought about my aging parents, my growing niece and nephew, the stupid shit I did growing up that could have easily resulted in ER visits and eventually, loss of coverage.
I thought about the states that invested millions to support healthcare infrastructure and the medical professionals who took on debt to obtain a career in healthcare. I thought about the tax revenue that will be lost as these jobs are eliminated, the mortgages that will be in jeopardy, the economic insecurity that will follow this legislation.
The fate of many weighed on my mind as I walked the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. A feat of American engineering, it rounds out an already breath-taking view. At the edge of the bridge, a sign reads, “There is hope, make the call,” next to a built-in telephone that connects to a crisis hotline. Amidst all the beauty, you’re forced to acknowledge darkness, forced to acknowledge that greatness also gives way to agony and despair.
I looked at the stream of water flowing between ancient hills. The wind moved gently and poetically, which is how you know an answer is making its way to you.
Are you the gorge that finds a way, or are you the mountains that refuse to move?
I will admit I have played both roles in my life, in personal relationships and political convictions. But if there is one thing I learned from my past of self-imposed defiance, it is this: Life is more enjoyable when you embody the plasticity of water instead of the rigidity of stone.
This legislation is the epitome of unchecked rigidity. It is not rooted in fiscal responsibility or small government philosophy, but in thinly-masked greed and hate (Note: If these individuals truly believed in fiscal responsibility or small government, they would have foregone their own government healthcare).
It takes a lot of hate to allow a rapist to stay insured while a victim loses coverage. It takes a lot of resentment to believe working families should pay more for healthcare while insurance executives receive bigger salaries. It is a level of vitriol so profound that you can feel how wrong it is in your gut.
But here’s the real kicker – you can’t escape that which you hate. You cannot repeal it, ban it, defund it, or bomb it out of existence. Energy does not die, it can only transform. This legislation is so destructive that it will require transformation in the future.
So how will we alchemize policy trash into policy gold?
It sounds counter-intuitive, but acknowledging the limitations of Obamacare is one of the best ways to honor it. Those who support comprehensive healthcare have spent years defending a policy that partially works well. This is what happens when something comes under attack, but the response lacks real impact. The answer is not in attempting to destroy the other side’s destruction. The answer is in creating policies that amplify successful Obamacare components while transforming the ones that fall short.
The ACA wasn’t the final healthcare solution. It was an important stepping-stone to securing inclusive healthcare policies. But despite its best efforts, many still pay hundreds in monthly premiums so they can eventually pay thousands in deductibles once something actually goes wrong. Even though the intentions were sincere, these costs intensify economic hardship for far too many.
Don’t be the mountain that refuses to move. The strategy forward cannot be “Obamacare or TrumpCare.” The either/or narrative is designed to keep ideas boxed in. The rhetoric moving forward needs to be “This part of Obamacare AND …,” as this will allow for the incorporation of popular mandates like family planning and coverage for pre-existing conditions, while also addressing the pitfalls of rising premiums and inadequate coverage.
In other words: Raise your healthcare standards, and don’t settle for scraps. Moving forward, only greed is a pre-existing condition.