Obamacare: Mission Accomplished?

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When any politician or leader proclaims “mission accomplished,” the statement is typically regarded with no small measure of skepticism. When ushering in a massive new social program or announcing the conclusion a widely-protested military conflict, success is often hard to define and, more importantly, by no means a perfect reality. That phrase has only been further tainted by former President George W. Bush. Addressing sailors aboard the the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, standing in front of an American-flag emblazoned sign proclaiming “mission accomplished,” Bush stated that the United State’s major combat operations in Iraq were at an end. But in the weeks and years that followed, guerrilla warfare only increased; the vast majority of American civilian and military casualties came after the speech. Since that day, the words “mission accomplished” has been used to ironically indicate a mission that has been anything but fully accomplished.

The words “mission accomplished” have not been expressly used by the Obama administration to describe the success of the Affordable Care Act to date, and for good reason. But the term has been bandied around by the media, and the White House itself has framed the first, six-month enrollment period as triumphant moment for the reform of the American health care system.

To the Obama administration, reaching 7.1 million enrollments meant success; a target hit. As President Barack Obama said in a statement released late on March 31, the last day of the enrollment period, “now, millions of our fellow Americans have the comfort and peace of mind that comes with knowing they’re no longer leaving their health and well-being to chance. For many of them, quality health insurance wasn’t an option until this year — maybe because they couldn’t afford it, or because a pre-existing condition kept them locked out of a discriminatory system.” In his opinion, “regardless of your politics, or your feelings about the Affordable Care Act, millions more Americans with health coverage is something that’s good for our economy and our country.”

But even more importantly, at least for the sake of politics, Obama’s April 1 speech in the Rose Garden was meant as a final rebuttal to the critics of the health care reform intended to be the signature achievement of his presidency. “I’ve said before, I will always work with anyone who is willing to make this law work even better,” he stated. “But the debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”

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