In a speech before the NAACP annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius analogized the arguments opponents of Obamacare make to those made by opponents of civil rights laws.
“The Affordable Care Act is the most powerful law for reducing health disparities since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965, the same year the Voting Rights Act was also enacted,” Sebelius said in her speech Tuesday. “That significance hits especially close to home. My father was a Congressman from Cincinnati who voted for each of those critical civil rights laws, and who represented a district near where the late Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth lived and preached.”
“The same arguments against change, the same fear and misinformation that opponents used then are the same ones opponents are spreading now. ‘This won’t work,’ ‘slow down,’ ‘let’s wait,’ they say,” Sebelius said. “But history shows that upholding our founding principles demands continuous work toward a more perfect union.”
She continued that pushing for affordable health care requires the type of work the NAACP has done to push for rights.
“You showed it in the fight against lynching and the fight for desegregation. You showed it by ensuring inalienable rights are secured in the courtroom and at the ballot box. And you showed it by supporting a health law 100 years in the making,” she said. “With each step forward, you said to forces of the status quo, ‘this will work,’ ‘we can’t slow down,’ ‘we can’t wait,’ ‘we won’t turn back.’”
“And those voices of progress form the echo we hear and honor this year,” she added. “They echo from church bells rung at midnight 150 years ago to educate our nation of a people’s emancipation. They echo from a speech on our nation’s mall 50 years ago next month about the promise of our nation’s dream. And they still echo and guide us today in a second term of a historic presidency.”
Sebelius’ comments came a day before a Wednesday vote in the House to potentially delay implementation of the individual mandate and authorize delay of the employer mandate. The White House has threatened to veto both bills.
Sebelius has been promoting Obamacare in anticipation for the October 1 opening of the health insurance exchanges. Tuesday she called for those at the NAACP convention to help get out the word.
“After 100 years of conversation about health reform, change is finally coming,” she said. “And we only get this chance once in a lifetime. We need the NAACP to continue to be a champion for coverage to help remove one of the most persistent forms of inequality once and for all.”