In the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one should go broke just because they get sick. In the United States of America, health care is not a privilege for the fortunate few — it is a right. 

President Barack Obama, 2010

As Black History Month gets underway, I find myself reflecting on how we typically celebrate the great historical figures from our past, like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and many more of the early civil rights activists.  We don’t always highlight the living legends who have broken down barriers and made modern history.  We should.  It’s especially important to do that now, as we stand on the edge of losing the progress we’ve made.

It was a historic moment when Barack Obama was elected to the presidency. And it didn’t stop there.  President Obama made history by passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010.  He started the process by making a commitment to expand healthcare coverage during his campaign, and he continued by making it a signature issue during his presidency — first to pass the law and then to implement it.    

In so doing, he took a huge step toward making healthcare a right in America.  The fact that 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions are guaranteed coverage by the ACA is something that had never been done before.  Before the ACA, people with pre-existing conditions were denied coverage outright, or charged more for it. Now, under the law, those practices are prohibited.

I couldn’t agree more with President Obama’s statement that healthcare is a human right and should not be something that is only accessible to privileged people. In fact, this very notion inspired me to write Marching Toward Coverage.  Health care is not yet a right in the US, since millions of people still can’t afford healthcare coverage.  But the ACA has given us something that most people want to keep: the right to be treated equally, even if you have a pre-existing condition.  As I emphasize throughout my book, we must protect that right, and build upon it.

Join me in celebrating the living legends this month, like Barack Obama, and his legacy: the Affordable Care Act. I look to moments like this in history to remain hopeful for our future. At a time when hope and morale is so low, I treasure this.

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