The FamiliesUSA HealthAction 2011  conference in Washington last week gave me new insight on the challenges facing our new healthcare law (the Affordable Care Act) and new respect for advocates who are standing up to the challenges, especially in the states.
Here are the main points I picked up that I think will inform our work for the next few years:
- The fight to repeal/dismantle the healthcare law in Congress, the courts, and state legislatures will go on for years. That also happened with the Social Security law.
- Most people still don’t know what's in the law 
- most know about pre-existing conditions provisions but not other benefits
- people want to know what affects them
- most don’t trust government as the messenger – they do trust people of faith, nurses, and people they think are “like themselves” (e.g. friends and neighbors)
- Supporters of the law need to tell the stories of people who have already benefited from the law, and highlight what could be taken away .
- Implementation in states is critical – especially Medicaid and the exchanges – and could be slowed down by opposition. Medicaid is in trouble right now due to state budget problems.
- The Affordable Care Act is not just about health insurance, but also about the health or our nation. It is a significant move to treat all people equitably.
And . . .
I heard how the ACA was based on the healthcare law implemented in Massachusetts, and how that law is providing better coverage and lower costs for people there.
I saw Senators Harkin and Baucus, Representatives Pelosi and Becerra, and President Obama state their firm commitment to moving forward, not backward, with healthcare in our country.
I was moved by Donald Berwick’s presentation on the values he wants to promote as the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and also by the dedication of the people who work for him who are trying to implement a major new health insurance system in a relatively short amount of time.
I was heartened by the stories of community organizers in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Utah and California who are educating and advocating in their communities and state governments for affordable, accessible, quality healthcare for all people.
And I celebrated the presentation of “Health Care Hero” awards  to Sr. Carol Keehan of Catholic Health Association and Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK!
Now it’s time to get back to work.