In the photo above, a jubilant and triumphant Speaker Pelosi is celebrating the victory of her fight to pass the Affordable Care Act.
This March brought two major things to celebrate: Women’s History Month (in the year that marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage!) and the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. There is no better way to celebrate these two things simultaneously than to honor Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi has been, and continues to be, a fierce champion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Her leadership played a major role in getting the law enacted. She is an unsung hero of that effort, and her strength and tenacity continue to inspire me to this day.
As I wrote in Marching Toward Coverage, “It took fierce leadership and constant pressure from outside groups such as Planned Parenthood to keep the new legislation on course – especially when it came to women’s health issues. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is an unsung hero in this effort – she kept her party together, even through a contentious debate on abortion coverage. A mother of five and a strong supporter of addressing women’s health issues, Pelosi ensured passage of an ACA that covered abortions and remedied long-standing injustices for women. As Cecile Richards, the former head of Planned Parenthood later wrote, “Nancy didn’t blink.””
Pelosi knew the tremendous potential of the ACA. In her speech right before the 2010 vote on the ACA she said, “Today we have the opportunity to complete the great unfinished business of our society and pass health insurance reform for all Americans. That is a right and not a privilege.” (emphasis mine)
And Pelosi fought for that potential – she didn’t let anything stand in her way. As she famously said during that fight:
“We will go through the gate. If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health reform passed.”
In closing out Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate Nancy’s moral courage, combined with her fierce, strong, and pragmatic “get it done” approach. It is exactly the type of leadership we need in order to make healthcare a right in this country.
Note: The ACA celebrated its 10th anniversary on March 23rd, 2020. For more information about the successes of the ACA over the past decade, you can read this blog post (including an infographic) I wrote with my team at Day Health Strategies.