By John Lynds
Last week, the Democrats had a huge victory as the U.S. Senate failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “Obama Care.” While there was much to celebrate as several Republicans, like Sen. John McCain, cast votes against the Senate bill to repeal Obama Care, Senate Democrats like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren say the fight is ongoing, and “Obama Care” is still under attack by many Republicans in the House and Senate.
Warren was back in Massachusetts Monday and toured the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, a place that long before “Obama Care,” offered quality health care to people of all ages, races, backgrounds regardless of their ability to pay.
Warren toured both the Health Center’s Gove Street and Maverick Street facilities and ended her tour with a roundtable discussion where she heard from health-care providers, patients and partners of EBNHC.
“I want to thank Sen. Warren and her team for visiting the Health Center today,” said EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes. “We are so happy about the work she has done to help the lives of individuals that don’t have a voice but also her work to protect the Affordable Care Act and making sure people living in this country not only have access to coverage but access to high quality health care. On our door it says “all are welcome” and we continue to provide service to anybody who walks through our doors regardless of their ability to pay and we have stayed true to that statement.”
Warren heard testimony from EBNHC different departments and programs that have helped improve the lives of countless residents in Eastie and the surrounding communities. Whether its the Health Center’s PACE program that helps seniors live at home independently, EBNHC highly successful pediatrics department and school based health care program to cutting edge metal health and substance abuse programs, Warren said she was beyond impressed with the team at the Health Center and the services they have been able to provide to thousands of low-income residents that would otherwise be left without stable health care.
Warren also heard from patients who have benefitted from EBNHC’s quality care and programs with one patient saying she passed up the chance to purchase a nice house for a good price north of Eastie because she feared her and her family would not get the same quality health care outside of the neighborhood.
For her part, Warren thanked the Health Center staff and board for being on the front lines and being a shinning example of everything that is right with quality affordable health care.
“I just wanted to come by today (Monday) and thank all of you,” said Warren. “An amazing thing happen last week. We were able to save health care for millions of Americans across the country. I just want to be clear that this has been a hard fight and we’ve been in this fight for a very very long time.”
Warren said the fight really began following Obama Care’s passage and then having to defend expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans day after day.
“When this year started we didn’t have the votes to stop the repeal but what we did have is people from all over this country that got into the fight including people like you from our Community Health Center,” said Warren. “You got into the fight in different ways. One of those ways was just by doing what you do every day and showing America that this is the way we can provide high quality health care to all of our people.”
When arguing on the Senate floor, Warren said she points to Community Health Centers as the shining stars of what works in the the health care industry.
“Every time I hear the arguments that costs are rising or things are not working I say ‘take a look at our Community Health Centers’,” said Warren. “EBNHC is one of the best examples of how affordable quality health care can be delivered to thousands of people every day.”
Warren said the Senate Republican’s failure to repeal Obama Care was a triumph for democracy.
“Enough people from across America said ‘health care is a basic human right, and we will stand up and fight for basic human rights’,” said Warren. “This is not a partisan issue, it’s a human issue and I think that is powerfully important to realize.”
Over the national debate of whether or not to repeal Obama Care, Warren said something magical happened across America.
“America believes in health care coverage, maybe not everyone, but I think there has been a huge shift and people are seeing health care as a basic human right,” said Warren. “Also, in the first time in its 52 year existence we talked openly about Medicare. We put a human face on Medicare and talk about who gets Medicare and why they get Medicare and why Medicare is so important. People are realizing that Medicare is not about ‘some others’ but about all of us as human beings and it was important to talk about the faces of Medicare and the people that are touched by Medicare. I think now much of America has a better understanding not only of how health insurance affects our health care system but how Medicare and Medicaid are an equally important component of that system.”
In the end Warren said the fight to preserve Obama Care is not over.
“This fight is not over and it can come back at any moment,” said Warren. “There are still those across the country that want to fight to roll back health care coverage. We have to be vigilant and we can not move backwards or lose focus in this fight. People like Manny (Lopes), Senator (Joseph) Boncore and people from across Massachusetts have been in this fight and standing shoulder to shoulder by showing up at rallies, sending emails and texts and making calls. You’ve done everything to say I want my voice heard in this big national health care debate.”
“I came here today to just say it has been an honor to work alongside all of you,” she added.