In recent years, debates about health care have taken center-stage in the political landscape, both in Michigan and across the country. While ensuring everyone can access the care they need seems like something we should all be able to agree on, many of our elected officials are fighting for exactly the opposite.
Here in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed into law Medicaid work requirements, which could take health care away from thousands of low-income Michiganders. Other Republicans, including prominent leaders like Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, and state Sen. Patrick Colbeck have repeatedly promised to dismantle Obama Care, officially known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the coverage it provides.
Similarly, the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans continue to chip away at the nation’s health care. Their most recent aim: to remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which would mean insurance companies could deny coverage or raise premiums for individuals who struggle with health conditions. These attacks on affordable health care come despite recent polling that has shown the majority of voters in both parties believe these protections should be preserved.
This insistence on dismantling Obamacare is motivated by two factors: money and spite. At the end of the day, most Republicans prioritize the desires of corporations and wealthy donors, even if it means hurting their most vulnerable constituents. Additionally, many conservatives’ personal dislike of President Barack Obama plays a role; they are determined to destroy his legacy whether it is good policy or not.
Meanwhile, progressives are fighting back. Democrats in Congress have repeatedly stood up for the ACA, and many prominent members of the party have come out in favor of policies that would further increase the availability and affordability of health care. The same is true for Democrats in Michigan. A bill recently introduced by state Rep. Yousef Rabhi would create a single-payer health care system designed to ensure universal coverage. Earlier this year, Democrats in the house introduced a pair of bills that would crack down on big pharma and prescription drug cost hikes. Other prominent Democrats, including Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El-Sayed, have their own plans to bring affordable health care to Michiganders of all income levels.
As a state and as a country, we are at an important crossroads, and we need to decide where our values lie. As progressives, we recognize that health care is a human right and no one living in the richest country in the world should ever have to go without. The question is, what are we going to do to make universal health care a reality?