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Eyes on the Prize: Health Care for All

This month marks the fourth anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare, and it also marks the end of open enrollment, the period for which individuals can join a group insurance plan under the ACA. The League was a strong advocate for the legislation when it was debated and passed by Congress in 2010.

Local and state Leagues have continued to support the ACA by sticking to League tradition and working on the long term goals of education and public awareness. Throughout the country, local and state Leagues are reaching out to their communities, trying to help people negotiate the new system and to work with providers to get the word out about local application of this new federal law.

Both the League of Women Voters of Vermont and the League of Women Voters of Texas have put together guides describing their states vastly different rollouts of the Affordable Care Act. Leagues in small towns and large cities have sponsored public forums that provide concerned citizens with the opportunity to come together and share their concerns about the Affordable Care Act and get answers from local experts. In Florida, the Florida League has been leading a campaign to educate voters and the business community about the economic imperative of getting Florida's fair share of federal health care dollars. This is especially important considering that health care spending is over 17 percent of the US economy and an issue that impacts every individual.

Not everything about health care implementation has been easy. Initially, there were technical roadblocks to ACA implementation, just as there were with other major federal initiatives like the 2003 Medicare D program. But progress is being made. As of mid-February, 3.3 million Americans had enrolled in health exchanges. Once the March 31, 2014 deadline passes, people will have to wait until open enrollment begins again in November.

Judicial challenges continue as well. In June 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law, and they will hear another case during the final week of March that challenges the coverage mandate that requires employers to provide contraceptive coverage to women. The League has joined an amicus brief in the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby that argues in favor of the coverage. The League believes the court would be promoting discrimination based on sex if it were to deny women access to needed health care coverage based on ill-defined religious or moral objections of their employing corporation.

The League of Women Voters has long supported universal health care for all. The ACA is a step in the right direction and local and state Leagues are leading the way to inform their communities and involve citizens to making access to affordable health care coverage a reality for all Americans.