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By LINDA GUZMAN
An earlier version of this column appeared in The (Durham, N.C.) Herald-Sun 07.17.11 - 08:23 pm.
This summer, I traveled to Washington, D.C., with my 17-year-old son, Javi. I've been there many times before, but this was his first visit.
Even though she'd had a heart attack and several "mini-strokes" and couldn't walk, my mother-in-law was able to live in her own apartment until she died at age 90. That was important to her. She was able to do that because she had round-the-clock care provided through an agency that contracted with her state's Medicaid program.
Everyone has those moments in their lives-the ones you tell your children and grandchildren about. They always start off the same, and my story is no different.
I will never forget where I was when health care reform finally passed and became law.
On Tuesday, hundreds of patients, families, and advocates came to D.C. from across the country in buses, planes, and trains with one message for Congress: Medicaid matters! I stood with people who had travelled hours and waited in the 100-degree heat just to get inside the Senate building for a rally to let Congress know that Medicaid not only affects the federal budget, but it also affects children, seniors, those with disabilities, and low-income families - and is often the difference between life and death.
Last week a lot of people were standing up for health care reform. There were marchers in the streets of Washington, D.C. trying to get equal access to insurance. There were congressional hearings on the subject, and 24 health care survivors spoke of their healthcare tragedies. One of those wonderful people was Marcelas. He is 11 years old.
At the eleventh hour, Congress came up with a deal to avoid defaulting on our national debt. That deal ties raising the debt ceiling to a two-part deficit reduction plan. In the first round of the deal’s deficit reduction, which included $1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, Medicaid was spared from any cuts. However, the fight to protect Medicaid is far from over. As part of the debt agreement, a “super committee” of 12 members of Congress is charged with coming up with a plan by the end of November that will reduce the deficit by an additional $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
The tax extenders bill (also known as the jobs bill), H.R. 4213, has been stalled in Congress for weeks. The Senate has now attempted to pass a bill to address the unemployment and state budget crisis three times to no avail. Each step along the way, the Senate has hit a wall of opposition that is supposedly based on concerns about increasing the federal deficit. To appease these concerns, the Senate cut a critical provision to provide additional assistance to states for Medicaid by one-third – but the bill still failed to win the 60 votes necessary to pass.
On Tuesday, a federal court in Lynchburg, Virginia dismissed a lawsuit brought by Liberty University and five individuals challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Among other claims, Liberty University—an institution founded by Jerry Falwell, and now led by his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr.—made the now familiar, if dubious, argument that the personal responsibility provision of the law is unconstitutional.
The New Year should welcome in a clean slate, but since opponents of reform won’t give up their campaign of misinformation, we have to set the record straight yet again.
Let’s all say it together this time: The Affordable Care Act does not contain death panels.
The rumors started last year when a few opponents of health reform saw an opportunity to gain political points by misrepresenting a benefit in the bill.