One of my favorite books as a child was The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss. It recently reentered my life when I became a parent, seeking quality stories to read to my own children.
It is a simple story. A boy plants a carrot seed. He tends to it each day. And waits. His family is not sanguine about the carrot's prospects.
"It won't come up," they tell him, over and over again. But in the end, it does come up. Bigger and better than even the little boy may have imagined.
I happened to be in the West Wing for meetings when the Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold almost all of the Affordable Care Act. The joy that only perseverance can bring, the humility of knowing how many it takes to make change, and the satisfaction that comes from knowing millions will be better off, were all palpable.
So many were sure that the ACA wouldn't get through Congress. Then after oral arguments to the Supreme Court, everyone was sure it would be struck down by the conservative majority. Yet the President persisted despite the doubts, and, like the boy in the story, was handsomely rewarded for his conviction.
The Nathan Cummings Foundation helped plant these seeds, supporting groups like Wisconsin Citizen Action in their efforts to make the ACA real, translating dry federal policies into the brass tacks struggles facing everyday families.
It is easy to be swayed by the pessimism of others. How can something be right when so many say so loudly that it is wrong? Yet pursuing what you know to be right, against great odds, is often the most important thing we can do. In fact, isn’t that what philanthropy is all about?
The press and many politicians like to view the ACA through the prism of the election. Yet we must all remember that accessible, high-quality, affordable care for everyone - regardless of age, income or physical condition - transcends politics. We must look at the real lives that will be changed as health insurance becomes an affordable option for millions of Americans.
That’s why we helped to start the ACA Implementation Fund – housed at Community Catalyst – two years ago to begin to invest in this essential work. Given the uncertainties about whether the law would stand, those investments carried some risk. We now know the ACA is the law of the land and the hard work of implementation which began in 2011 can now move into high gear. And not a moment too soon.
A recent article in The New York Times looked at what happened when Oregon offered Medicaid to a randomly chosen group of uninsured low-income residents. One woman finally had surgery to fix her ankle after four years of pain, reduced mobility, and weight gain. A man who had filed for bankruptcy due to medical bills incurred when he had no insurance now had a doctor helping him keep his diabetes under control. Multiply these stories by the millions who will gain coverage in the coming years. It is impossible not to be deeply moved by what has been accomplished.
There is still work to do. Several state leaders are balking at the Medicaid expansion that is essential to providing the most vulnerable with affordable insurance. If we continue to invest in strong advocacy work at the local and national levels, we can make it very difficult for any state to opt out.
I am proud that in some small way we are part of the amazing coalition that made this possible, from the most anonymous grassroots activist to the President of the United States. It seems appropriate to lift a metaphorical glass and say, “L’chaim!” To life!