CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Not too long ago, virtually everyone -- both Democrats and Republicans -- agreed that in a country as prosperous as ours, all Americans should have access to a doctor when they're sick as well as the preventive care necessary to help keep them healthy. There was broad consensus that the Emergency Room was by far the most costly place to go for routine care.
While many of us in Congress vigorously disagreed in good faith about the best approaches to achieving that objective -- some thought the solution was government-based and others wanted to rely on purely private approaches -- we always seemed to be working toward the same goal of making health-care coverage accessible for every American.
Today, however, it is painfully clear that Republicans in Congress no longer share this goal. In fact, they are fighting tooth and nail to prevent families from obtaining affordable health- care coverage, even though the law includes most of the private-based model they had sought for decades.
Four years ago, we had a great debate over the shape of health-care reform-and some ideas won out, while others did not. Such is the nature of democracy and the democratic process. It was not the bill I would have written line for line, but I was proud to support it.
What Americans got from the Affordable Care Act was a thoughtful law that brings us closer than ever before to the goal of affordable health care for all, while simultaneously lifting from our economy the heavy burden of runaway health costs.
The irony here is that the law is built on long-standing bipartisan and Republican ideas -- ideas we've talked about for years -- and it is already starting to work. It's changing the way we spend our money on health care. In Medicare, for example, seniors now get annual physicals and key preventive screenings, and the coverage gap seniors were facing with their medicines is gone, all while giving the Medicare Trust Fund another 10 years of funding.
When the new insurance plans begin to kick in as soon as January 2014, everyone who is enrolled will get real health care, not some policy that you pay for month after month, only to discover it doesn't cover you when you need it. Your plan is going to cover a hospital stay, provide access to a specialist when you need one, medicine to keep your high blood pressure at bay, and the mental health services critical to treating an addiction.