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Fix health care reform, don't scrap it

The Affordable Care Act is on a tightrope. On one end is the ongoing implementation, on the other end is repeal.

Nationally, Republicans just earned a majority in the Senate and House. Their rhetoric regarding the ACA, and therefore its extension in Oregon, indicates these new health initiatives may have a short life. Here is a quote from the probable new Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell: “The Affordable Care Act is the worst piece of legislation passed in the past 50 years.”

In addition, two prominent Republican senators, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who may run for president in 2016, have said they will vote for total repeal of the ACA. These politicians cannot find any good in the ACA and would scrap it because it was a bad idea in the first place.

The argument for the ACA can be simplified to the following thesis statement: Government should be involved in creating a health care framework that is accessible, affordable and equitable for uninsured citizens.

Is it fair that so many citizens have not been able to access affordable health care? One medical intervention can be catastrophic for uninsured minimum wage earners and the growing percentage of families without living wage jobs. It is reasonable to believe that affordable health care is indispensable. The politicians who support the ACA need to be transparent with their agenda and speak as forcefully as those who say no, because the ACA is a good idea in the first place.

The Oregon Legislature has the ideal opportunity over the next two years to improve Oregon's model of the ACA. We have a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate; also, Gov. John Kitzhaber is a physician who understands levels of health care.

The only path to accomplish great work like this is through bipartisanship. The image we need to see is one of legislators working across the aisles and demonstrating to us that vital issues like health care can be solved by elected officials working together for the common good. We can continue to make positive strides and build on what is already started. Nationally, presidential aspirants will be looking for efficient/effective systems. It is imperative that our determined legislators continue to craft the most sensible, efficient and effective Oregon example of the ACA.

When we look at pure politics, upon Obama's election, McConnell is quoted as saying, “We have a new president with an approval rating in the 70 percent area. We begin to take him down, we create an inventory of losses, so it's Obama lost on this, Obama lost on that.”

This statement creates an environment of us versus them, and taken to the extreme, creates the type of gridlock we have experienced during the Obama presidency. The Oregon challenge is to respond with vigor to the politics that disable governance and promote bipartisanship. I don't think anyone would say the ACA is perfect, but fixing rather than abolishing it gives low wage earners and those between jobs a better chance to be healthier and therefore more productive.

The ACA would have looked much different and been infinitely better had both political parties openly debated, fought hard for positions, and finally settled on how best to serve the uninsured. Instead, in my opinion, the Republicans did not appropriately engage, and the opportunity for genuine argumentation did not play out. Let's solve this!

Legislators, answer this question: Should government set up a framework that results in uninsured citizens having affordable health care? Mail Tribune, you can help with this by having our legislators clearly state their positions and identify the key pieces on how Oregon will shape its version of the ACA. Good journalism will not allow our legislators to give bland, boilerplate statements; we need substance that will build trust.

Let's get in front of the politics of 2016 by building a solid case for accessible health care for the uninsured. Is the ACA a failed experiment? Dissonance in politics is the American way; we deserve bipartisan substantive argumentation. Let's follow the reasons that cause the ACA to survive or cease to exist.

The ACA is too important to become political spectacle. Health care is vital and very expensive, even more so to those without insurance. Citizens who are recently enrolled in the ACA, and those in the process of enrolling are waiting: Will their current affordable health care endure? Literally, their health is balancing on this tightrope of yes or no.

Jeff Schlecht is the retired principal of Ashland High School.