Let's Actually Have That Honest Conversation About Fixing Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act has already helped millions of Americans gain health insurance -- a big step forward. The debate over the ACA has been one of the most contentious we've ever seen. Fortunately, efforts to repeal it have been thwarted. Now's the time to have a conversation about making it work for every American.

At UNITE HERE, we are on the front lines fighting for workers. Our union represents 270,000 working people across North America in the hospitality industry and beyond. We change lives by improving wages and benefits in traditionally low-wage industries, creating good jobs that sustain families. We have been providing high quality, low-cost health benefits to our members for decades. We are predominantly women and people of color, and we hail from all corners of the planet. Together, we are building a movement to enable people of all backgrounds to achieve greater equality and opportunity. And, fixing Obamacare, so the landmark law meets its true potential, will help our members and many other Americans.

As with every major piece of legislation, especially those involving health care, the ACA wasn't perfect. But, it can -- and should -- be fixed. Unfortunately, without smart fixes, many Americans will lose coverage, have their hours cut or receive less comprehensive coverage. Fixing Obamacare's problems while preserving its gains demands an honest discussion nearly impossible in polarized Washington, D.C.

For the past couple years, everyone on both sides has been in battle mode. That has prevented progressives from addressing the changes needed to make Obamacare more effective. Of late, we have seen some key players in the debate to pass the law, like Rep. Henry Waxman and former Rep. Barney Frank, start to speak out.

Having that discussion is critical. Every major piece of legislation that has moved our nation forward, including Social Security and Medicare, has required adjustments. That's a normal part of the process -- or would be absent the intransigence of the Tea Party.

That is why our union launched a new website, Obamacarefixit.org. The homepage is titled, "Fixing Obamacare: An Honest Discussion" and will provide in-depth white papers analyzing key issues and a blog that will examine issues that remain to be fixed if Obamacare is to live up to its full, intended potential.

We'll monitor developments in the law -- and take note of the ongoing discussion about it. Among the topics that we'll address:

  • How the ACA Exchanges have turned into insurance company profit pipelines
  • The law's successes in expanding coverage and reducing insecurity
  • How corporations like food service giant Sodexo are taking advantage of loopholes and incentives to drop coverage
  • IRS and Treasury rulings that hurt workers and protect executives
  • Why not-for-profit health plans serving 20 million people are in jeopardy
  • How Washington's polarized politics have encouraged all sides to exaggerate and mislead the public. And much, much more.

It's pretty clear that Washington is dysfunctional. Republicans have been trying to block Obamacare for years. And they won't give up, despite the way the law has helped millions of uninsured Americans. On the other hand, Democrats have not faced up the fact that fixes must be made. They know that has to happen.

The launch of this website is a modest step to give voice to commonsense fixes that must be made to make Obamacare work for more Americans. Ideally, groups from across the spectrum would work together to address many of the unintended consequences of the ACA. But, we're not naive. That's not going to happen in today's political climate. It's going to be up to progressives to make Obamacare function in the way it should. It's up to those of us who want it to work to demand fixes that help hard working Americans.

We also know the conversation about fixing Obamacare will continue into the 2016 election cycle. We look forward to discussing our concerns and suggestions with candidates for President who are looking for our support. Same goes for Senators who are up in 2016.