On January 4th, the Senate voted to begin debate on a budget resolution which is widely seen as the first step on the road to repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The 51-48 vote was unsurprisingly along party lines with the exception of Rand Paul, who voted in the minority with the Democrats. Congressional Republicans are yet to offer any proposals for replacing Obamacare, and any eventual replacement would most likely involve scaling back Medicaid and further privatizing America’s healthcare.
There has been plenty of justified outrage since the vote but it cannot be channeled into a push for the preservation of Obamacare. There is a very real danger of energy and resources being put into a campaign that seeks to hold on to the current system just to hand a political defeat to the Republican Party. That would be a huge mistake; Americans must not lose their passion for truly universal healthcare and, in general terms, Republicans are absolutely right in wanting to repeal Obamacare. It leaves millions without coverage, fines people for being unable to afford private healthcare, and gives billions of dollars to insurance and pharmaceutical corporations. Leaving it in place also puts a single-payer system far out of reach as there would be insufficient energy left for a third healthcare battle in less than a decade.
Thanks to the Republicans’ increased political power and arrogance, the issue of healthcare has been kept alive (for now). Almost no winning candidates in 2016 campaigned on the issue, and most Democrats, including their presidential candidate, did not have the stomach for another “contentious debate.” Therefore, now is the time to further the fight for a single-payer system.
All single-payer advocates, regardless of political, economic, and social background and affiliation, must use the Republicans’ recent actions as the catalyst for organizing around this issue. They should stage public protests to express both their disgust at the lack of replacement legislation and their desire for any future replacement to be a single-payer system. With Obamacare again being debated in Congress, incumbents have an incentive to listen. Advocates should also begin looking at candidates who share that desire for 2018 and 2020. If not, the best we can hope for is an indefinite continuance of the status quo, and the worst is a conservative system that ruins society and the economy. Hopefully, enough people will find themselves on the right side before it’s too late.