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Friday, September 17, 2010

With Liberty and Justice for ALL…

Ron Pollack

Executive Director

223 years ago today, our forefathers signed the Constitution of the United States of America, giving birth to one of the greatest protections of liberty and justice the world has ever known.

Liberty and justice. For my colleagues and I at Families USA, that's not just a platitude to wave on a sign at a rally. For us it's a guiding principle that drives our work each and every day.

But yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau released some pretty stark news about a troubling injustice in America. In 2009, the number of uninsured Americans rose to 50.7 million.

I know when we talk about statistics, it's really easy to separate yourself personally from some unknown "X number of people." I know it doesn't feel real at first glance.

But 50.7 million people. Really think about that for a minute...

50.7 million people isn't some small, unseen segment of the population. 50.7 million people is more than the populations of Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia COMBINED!

50.7 million people is your younger sister who just graduated college and hasn't found a job yet. It's your best friend who survived cancer but was denied future coverage because of his "pre-existing" condition. It's your husband and children who no longer have coverage because you lost your job in this tough economy.

And it could have been much, much worse. In 2009, the number of people helped by safety net programs like the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid rose to just under 48 million people. If not for these vital programs, there could have easily been tens-of-millions more uninsured Americans!

So all this begs the question, what do we do about it?

Well, the great news for struggling Americans is: Help is on the Way!

Next week some major provisions of our new health care law will take effect including: young adults under 26 years of age will be allowed to obtain health coverage through their parents' policies; children with pre-existing health conditions will no longer be denied health coverage by insurance companies; and adults with pre-existing conditions will be able to secure health coverage through newly established and larger high-risk pools.

And in the coming months and years, even more protections will be put in place to ensure those 50.7 million unprotected Americans can get the affordable, quality health care coverage we all need and deserve.

As these new provisions take effect, I know opponents of the law will be taking to the airwaves, spreading their myths, telling you how "vital" it is to repeal the law. They want you to think this law infringes on your liberty somehow.

All I ask is that we all learn about the law for ourselves. I know the Affordable Care Act is about helping people. I know it's about making sure struggling Americans can make ends meet in this tough economy. I know it's about saying "in America, we put people before profits."

I don't know what could be more in the spirit of liberty and justice than that.