Reid and Pelosi Celebrate Opening of Obamacare Exchanges Amid Government Shutdown

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As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took the podium in the Capitol Visitor Center on Tuesday, her exuberance was palpable. At an event sponsored by labor unions and health-care advocacy groups, Pelosi came to celebrate the October 1 opening of the health-insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a piece of legislation that is as much her signature achievement as it is President Obama’s.

More than a million people, Pelosi said, had already signed on to or called the toll-free number for information about the exchanges by mid-afternoon on Tuesday, and other speakers at the event, hosted by Americans United for Change, a progressive organization allied with labor unions, noted that the government website was so overwhelmed with traffic that it was running a bit slowly.

“It’s pretty exciting even though there was an attempt to say, ‘We’re going to distract everyone from enrollment in [insurance plans offered through] the Affordable Care Act by shutting down government,’” Pelosi said of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, which voted on Monday to attach a measure to the continuing resolution—the legislation needed to keep government running—that would have delayed implementation of the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

Because the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, stripped the measure out of the continuing resolution before returning the bill to House, the government was shuttered on the same day that the insurance exchanges opened for business.

As Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change put it: “At 12:01 this morning, Republicans shut the government down. At 12:01 this morning, Democrats brought affordable health care to the American people.”

Joining Pelosi at the podium was Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has pledged not to negotiate over implementation of the health-care law, for which Republicans also tried to revoke funding with an earlier version of the continuing resolution, a measure that also failed to pass the Senate. Pelosi heralded Reid as a force critical to the ACA’s passage in 2009.

The union members and activists—including dozens from Planned Parenthood—gave Reid a hero’s welcome when he entered the room, apparently in recognition of his refusal to compromise on Obamacare. (The latest House version of the continuing resolution included a delay of the prescription contraception benefit and other preventive health care for women.)

Reid marked the occasion celebrating the health-care law by taking a swipe at GOP predictions of a health-care disaster and by comparing those with similar reactions to the introduction of Social Security and Medicare more than 50 years ago. Recalling remarks made by Ronald Reagan in 1961, Reid quoted the late president, saying: “‘If you don’t stop Medicare, one day you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.’ Well, I haven’t heard anything like that since last night, in the House of Representatives.”

Other members of the House and Senate spoke, include Representatives Sander Levin (D-MI), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and George Miller (D-CA), as well as Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), who poignantly noted that among the large class of progressives he entered Congress with in 1974, “only four are left.”

Union leaders Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County, and municipal employees also stepped forward to celebrate implementation of the act.

Most moving, though, were the stories of individuals—those of Leslie Boyd, who lost her son before Obamacare’s passage because he was denied a cancer screening by his insurance company, and Maureen Murphy, who said that the Affordable Care Act had literally saved her life after private insurers rejected her for a pre-existing condition, making it impossible for her to get treatment of a life-threatening immunological disorder.

After the event came to a close, members of the American Federation of Government Employees gathered on the capitol grounds. “We Want to Work,” their signs read.

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  • expect_resistance

    This is a huge reason to celebrate the ACA. No more pre-existing conditions!

    From the article – “Most moving, though, were the stories of individuals—those of Leslie Boyd, who lost her son before Obamacare’s passage because he was denied a cancer screening by his insurance company, and Maureen Murphy, who said that the Affordable Care Act had literally saved her life after private insurers rejected her for a pre-existing condition, making it impossible for her to get treatment of a life-threatening immunological disorder.”

    I’m not saying the ACA is perfect but it’s a start in the right direction towards a single-payer system.

    • Susan Baumgaertner Fentz

      I hope you are eligible for the subsidized, “free” option and you’ve never had health insurance before. Otherwise, you’re in for a rude awakening.

      You obviously know very little about the law. The CBO reported there is no way insurance companies could charge enough to sustain no pre-existing conditions.
      THat is why those of us who paid (and still pay) for health insurance are seeing our premiums go up as much as 200%.

      Even with the high costs, at some point, insurance companies will go bankrupt.
      That is what the administration has always wanted – a single payer system aka “Socialized Medicine”.

      Socialized medicine NEVER works. It ALWAYS goes broke. There are never enough doctors, long waits (6+ months) to see a doctor or get an MRI. What if you need surgery? What if you get cancer?

      The IRS is monitoring it all. Are you fine with the IRS handling decisions about your health care?

      I have read several books, trying to understand this law.
      The people who keep telling you this law is great never even read the bill.

      • expect_resistance

        Please stop with the right-wing propaganda and scare tactics. The IRS is not making decisions on healthcare. I’m not and expert on the ACA and neither are you.

        The ACA is not perfect, it’s a start on what I hope will someday be a single payer plan. I would argue for what the Physicians for a National Health Program and Sen. Sanders are calling for, a single payer plan.

        A problem with the ACA is that the Supreme Court has allowed states for opt out of Medicaid expansion. Which is leaving many people in poverty still not covered by healthcare insurance. I would recommend reading, “The Cruelty of Republican States in One Chart” at The American Prospect.

        I want to live in a country were all people are covered by health insurance. I believe healthcare is a right.

        Excerpts from Physicians for a National Health Program:
        All Americans would receive comprehensive medical benefits under single payer. Coverage would include all medically necessary services, including rehabilitative, long-term, and home care; mental health care, prescription drugs, and medical supplies; and preventive and public health measures.

        Care would be based on need, not on ability to pay.
        Single payer is the only plan which features effective cost control measures like global budgeting, negotiated fees, bulk purchasing, and capital investment planning. As a result single payer can reduce the growth of health spending. Whereas health spending is projected to increase to 20 percent of GDP by 2020, if single payer were adopted in 2012 it could contain costs to 17 percent of GDP (Friedman, Dollars and Sense, 4/2012). A study by the Congressional Budget Office also projected that single payer could reduce health inflation

        Single payer would be the simplest and most efficient health care plan that Congress could implement.

  • Susan Baumgaertner Fentz

    There is so much BS in this story? Do I like it? No! We get enough propaganda as it is. Do something different – tell the truth.

    First off, I am an Independent, not a Republican.
    The government has been shut down because Obama wants it that way.
    Obamacare is already funded for now. The GOP has offered to fund every other program. This would allow the congress and President time to negotiate with absolutely no problems.

    Despite what the biased media says, government shutdowns have happened 17 times since the 70s. Congress is SUPPOSED to worki things out with President. It’s called “checks and balances”. It’s why we have three branches in government. It’s the reason we don’t have a king!

    I now see why schools stopped teaching history and the Constitution in schools.
    Anyone under 45 don’t seem to know how our government works.

    The government is partially shut down because Obama refuses to negotiate with anyone in congress. That is part of his job and as usual, he’s NOT doing it.
    Instead he is busy closing down the Grand Canyon (which belongs to everyone – not him).
    We don’t need nonessential workers to look at the Grand Canyon.

    Obama has been closing down parks, monuments etc that are PRIVATELY OWNED but sits on government land. These places cost the government NOTHING.
    He plays these games to punish people. He gets away with it because so many in this country never question him. He knows so many are ignorant and uninformed.
    So what does he do? he keeps closing down privately owned landmarks and blames everything on the GOP. The GOP are gutless so he keeps doing it.

    • expect_resistance

      Seriously? Look at your own propaganda filled post.

      You could have fooled me that you’re not a Republican, but it’s clear you have been brainwashed with right-wing propaganda. For the record, I’m not a Democrat but would consider myself and “independent.” Meaning, an ecofeminist-anarchist socialist.

      Let’s talk propaganda. Your post is filled with right-wing propaganda. You sound like you’re reciting Rush Limbaugh. A lot of people think “Obamacare” and the ACA are two different things. For instance see the Jimmy Kimmel video where he asks pedestrians if they prefer Obamacare Or the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Most people say they prefer the ACA. Who demonized the ACA into “Obamacare?” The Republicans. With guess what? Propaganda.

      The government is not shut down because “Obama want’s it that way.” That’s dumb and not true. This country has moved further to the right and further into decisive politics. What’s your proof that schools have stopped teaching history (I’m assuming you’re referring to U.S. history)? You have none, because you are spewing right-wing propaganda.

  • Friv Para

    Thank you for sharing with us, but I think some of the least developed countries to make that difficult