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Health Reform: A Critical Social Justice Frontier

Affordable Care Act

Photo of Dr. George Askew, ACF's Chief Medical OfficerThree of biggest legislative initiatives aimed at social justice were created in the last 50 years - all kicked off while I was a barely a toddler:

  • The War on Poverty introduced by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • and the creation of Medicaid via the Social Security Amendments of 1965

Tomorrow, as part of the Affordable Care Act, open enrollment through the Health Insurance Marketplace, a new way to find health care coverage, begins. Providing affordable health care coverage for over 40 million uninsured and eligible Americans across the country is the next step into the social justice frontier. Many of these Americans face the most significant social, economic, and health challenges in this country. In trying to put the importance of this event into perspective I recalled the words of Dr. Martin Luther King.

“Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

As a children’s doctor and longtime advocate for the well being of children and families, I view this next chapter in the Affordable Care Act, through lens of Dr. King’s words, as being one of the most significant social justice investments our government has made or will make in my lifetime.  Its importance rivals, if not equals or surpasses that of the initiatives listed above.

That is why I am so excited about tomorrow.  History has shown that groundbreaking legislative change is not enacted often or easily.  I want to make sure that those I can reach do not underestimate the extent of the positive impact the Affordable Care Act is having and will continue to have on the health well being of us all. 

I congratulate the President for being brave enough, bold enough, and caring enough to tackle health care reform and to strike another blow for social justice.

George L. Askew, M.D., F.A.A.P., serves as the first chief medical officer for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In this role he provides expert advice and consultation to the assistant secretary for children and families on the development of plans, programs, policies, and initiatives that address the health needs and strengths of vulnerable children and families.

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