Ben Downing: Graham-Cassidy

Sep 26, 2017

On our national seal, you find a motto of the United States in Latin - “E pluribus Unum” … “Out of Many, One” … it was adopted to represent the coming together of the separate states to form the Union and the basis for our country. We are at our best as a nation when we look at that motto not as a description of the legal arrangement among states, but as the spirit that has guided us for 2 and a half centuries since. Out of many, one.

In the days and weeks leading up to consideration of Graham-Cassidy, the latest Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a million debates and arguments have been launched. Too few have focused on the facts, too many have focused on the politics. Not nearly enough have focused on what this moment says and will say about our collective spirit. Are we just separate states that have come together out of convenience? Or is America something bigger and better.

I believe it is the latter. I believe a majority of Americans look at neighbors who don’t have care or who have inadequate care, not as a burden, but as someone in a position they could easily find themselves in, but for the grace of God. I believe families in Arizona, Alaska and Maine want their premiums to come down, but they don’t want it to happen at the cost of their cousins in New York, California and Illinois. I believe no one wants a newborn or a recently laid off factory worker to be priced out of receiving the care they need because of a disease they inherited. I believe we are not as divided as this debate may suggest.

We are better than Graham-Cassidy and the efforts by Washington Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act without any real replacement. We are better than the cynical politics behind the proposal which says - that for your care to get better, someone’s care has to get worse. That is a lie. We all know, in our own way, that we are in this together and that the stronger the many are, the stronger the one becomes.

I believe we all know, no matter how different our perspectives may be, that taking away healthcare from 32 million Americans doesn’t make us stronger. Here in Massachusetts, we know removing the security of coverage from 655,000 of our neighbors won’t solve the problem of rising healthcare costs for the other six million. Average premiums rising $2,976 per family won’t free up entrepreneurs to invest and create new jobs. And leaving protections for the millions with pre-existing conditions up the whims of the states is no way to treat 50 percent of our fellow residents who stand to lose that guarantee.

Yes, the debate we are having is about healthcare. But it is also about the spirit that drives our nation. That spirit fueled the thousands of calls, emails and other forms of communication that beat back the last effort to repeal the Affordable care Act. That spirit led parents and patients to applaud their senators at airports when they returned having protected their healthcare. That spirit turned a late night comedian into a voice of moral clarity amidst the fake news and spin.  I believe that spirit will overcome the short sighted politics and false choices that are driving Washington Republicans. And I believe a majority of Americans, and hopefully U.S. senators, refuse to rip away the security their neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members have just found.

I believe this moment is a test of our spirit. I believe we will meet it, because we know, deep down, that the stronger the many are, the stronger the one becomes. 

Ben Downing Represented the westernmost district in the Massachusetts Senate from 2006 to 2016. He is currently a vice president at Nexamp, a Massachusetts-based solar energy company, and an adjunct faculty member at Tufts University.

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