By Barack Obama
RETIREMENT—The events of the past month remind us that as a community, we all have an obligation to look out for one another.
Ten years ago today, I signed the Affordable Care Act into law for that reason—that as Americans, we all deserve quality, affordable care. As Americans, we take care of each other.
When I ran for President in 2008, one of the first promises I made was that I would pass a law that moved us toward universal health care in my first term. It was a pledge informed by the stories I heard on the campaign trail and reinforced by the letters I would read in the White House: parents denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition; young people left without health insurance after finishing school; entrepreneurs and small business owners unable to afford coverage for their workers.
Those stories reflected the complexity of America’s fractured health care system. But the reason I pushed for what became the Affordable Care Act was a simple, deeply held conviction: In the richest country on Earth, high-quality, affordable health care shouldn’t be a privilege for a few; it should be a right for all.
Since then, the Affordable Care Act has helped millions of Americans access care, lower their health care costs, and receive treatment—Americans who would have been left on their own in the old system. In just a few years, it covered half this country’s uninsured. That’s not to say it was perfect—no major piece of legislation is—but it saved lives, expanded access, cut down on medical-related bankruptcy, and made our nation healthier and more equitable. It is progress worth protecting and building on until we finish the job of covering every single American once and for all.
What I hope people take away from that story is that this wasn’t something I did alone. It was the culmination of a movement for universal coverage that started decades before I took office, and included thousands of activists, health care providers, and ordinary people who organized and demanded action.
Especially during moments like this, we see the impact of that work. Across the country, citizens and local leaders have stepped up to support their friends and neighbors, demonstrating the obligation we all have to look out for one another.
That basic idea is what led so many to have an extraordinary impact on history a decade ago—and upholding our commitment to each other will see us through the challenges to come.