I went to bed Monday night amazed that for all I had seen and heard that day on the SCOTUS steps, while covering the rallies and protests over PPACA’s Constitutionality challenge, this was supposed to be the quiet day. Tuesday, they would be hearing arguments over the individual mandate – the requirement that everybody finally knuckle down and buy at least rudimentary health insurance if they have not done so already. And this is what people are fighting mad over. Tuesday would be an interesting day, I figured. And I was not wrong.
I arrived at the SCOTUS steps at 7:30 am, half an hour before a planned rally by a coalition of women’s rights groups led by Planned Parenthood was scheduled. Already, there were groups trying to shout over each other. You could hear it from a block away. But that was not the most amazing part. The most amazing part was seeing the line of people queued up with their tickets to attend the arguments themselves.
They were all under 30. And they did not look like they were part of a singular group, either. They looked like Millennials who figured out that the PPACA case would be their generation’s big SCOTUS landmark, and they all wanted to see it happen personally. It was really exciting, actually. These guys knew that however the Supreme Court ruled, it would affect them more than any other adult group. Capitol-watchers, take note. The Millennials look like they are finally coming into their own.
Meanwhile, on the SCOTUS steps, the same handful of Tea Partiers I saw yesterday were there again today, getting drowned out by a rather large group (Somewhere between 50 and 75, I’d say) of pro-PPACA demonstrators. The mood of the pro-PPACA folks was unusually cheery, considering how early and cold it was. It all made me wonder about the opposition. I had expected to see more…a lot more. Where the hell were they? I thought most Americans were supposed to disapprove of PPACA. If so, none of them bothered to make that known so far.
That is, until StudentsForLife, a pro-life college student group appeared. They were smallish (maybe 20-30 people) but they were polished and prepared, and they also hashed out a truce with the other side that they could get the podium mike uninterrupted for a little while without being shouted over, and then they would do likewise when it was the pro-PPACA crowd’s turn. Very civil, I thought.
StudentsForLife were mainly upset over the contraception issue attached to PPACA, as well as the notion of federally funded abortions. That was it. And to the other side’s credit, they stayed quiet throughout, and I started to think that maybe we were seeing a breakthrough. If only everybody involved in this debate could be so reasonable with each other, maybe some common ground could be found. Hope springs eternal.
The group ended their time with a prayer that SCOTUS would overturn PPACA. It made me think about how a faith group in favor of PPACA the day earlier prayed that PPACA would be upheld. One of these groups was not going to get what it wanted. They also had a ceremonial destruction of a copy of the PPACA text. “Don’t worry, we’re not Occupy,” their spokesman said. “We’ll clean it up.”
When the Planned Parenthood group took over, it was a much larger and louder event, with multiple speakers and, frankly, the kind of event I’d been expecting to see here all along. But more importantly, the stories being told to support PPACA all spelled out either shortcomings in the health insurance system pre-reform, or improvements to it post-reform.
A Stage 3 cancer victim who said she would be dead if not for PPACA.
A mother of four whose kids needed a bone marrow transplant, the cost of which drove them into bankruptcy, even though they were employed, financially responsible and insured. It just wasn’t enough.
A family of three (with one on the way) who spoke of how PPACA provided for an expensive treatment for a rare disease that a) would have been considered a pre-existing condition before PPACA) and b) would have made it impossible for the mom to have kids.
A young woman from Oregon whose parents’ auto body business was saved because of a PPACA-related drop in health insurance premiums.
A rape victim whose screening from HIV became a pre-existing condition that made her uninsurance. Her job? Health insurance agent.
There is probably an argument from the other side that counters each of these examples, but I was just grateful that the debate had shifted from shouting slogans to actually discussing health and what it could do…and not do. This is the true heart of this issue, after all. And it has been depressing to see how little it was being talked about. Probably because so few people really understand it, or care to learn. How nice it would have been for industry spokespeople to have been around to explain themselves to the public, but given the mood on the Hill, keeping a safe distance was probably a good idea.