Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Group Responsible for Passing Obamacare Declares Victory and Goes Home

This is from the Washington Post:

It’s hard to remember now, as the Affordable Care Act’s biggest programs come into effect, but many central decisions regarding Obamacare’s structure were made before anyone expected Barack Obama to be president. By the time he was a serious contender, Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards had all coalesced around strikingly similar health plans that would, in broad outline, become Obamacare.

This prehistory was essential to health reform’s passage. Key constituencies that advocated for health reform negotiated compromises well before a bill even existed. And a grass-roots campaign was prepared to move health reform center-stage within Democratic congressional districts across the country. Before President Obama took office, congressional leaders and House and Senate staffers were drafting specific legislative language. 

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) played a central role in leading that effort. HCAN brought together a wide array of organizations, from AFSCME, AFL-CIO and SEIU to the NAACP, MoveOn, ACORN, the Center for American Progress, the National Council of La Raza, Campaign for America’s Future and more. Even George Soros played a part. 

As national campaign manager and chief executive, Richard Kirsch played a key role in founding HCAN. His 2012 book,  "Fighting for Our Health: The Epic Battle to Make Health Care a Right in the United States," is an essential reference regarding the grass-roots advocacy behind health reform.

HCAN officially closed up shop on Dec. 31, 2013. I caught up with Kirsch to discuss HCAN’s contributions, as well as to discuss the accomplishments and the many missteps in the passage of health reform. In our conversation, Kirsch expressed pride in health reform. He also wasn’t shy about criticizing Obama, Sen. Max Baucus and others regarding various strategic missteps and the demise of the public option. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. ...