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Prof. Lichtenstein in the Los Angeles Times

His latest Op-Ed provides historical perspective on the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

For the full text of the Op-Ed, click here.

Nelson Lichtenstein is MacArthur Foundation Professor in History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prof. Lichtenstein directs the UCSB Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

If it is done right, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) may well promise uninsured Americans a lot more than cheap, reliable medical care. It can also open the door to the democratic empowerment of millions of poor people, who are often alienated from much of the nation’s civic life, by strengthening the organizations that give them a voice.

This year more than 30 million uninsured Americans are to begin signing up for Obamacare, but the vast majority of those eligible for either the expanded Medicaid program, or for subsidized private health insurance through state health exchanges, have no idea how to enroll. Surveys and focus groups have found that up to three-quarters of Americans who might directly benefit from the program are skeptical that the law can provide high-quality insurance coverage at a price they can afford.

This is dangerous, not only for their health but for the viability of the law. Many people think that with the Supreme Court ruling upholding the law and President Obama’s reelection, the Affordable Care Act finally made it out of the political and judicial woods. After all, the last few weeks have seen half a dozen Republican governors sign up their states for its expanded Medicaid coverage.

But confusion, fear and ignorance among millions of potential beneficiaries can still doom the reform. In California, nearly 7.2 million people — more than 20% of the population — lack access to health insurance. Most of these people are poor, and for many, English is their second language.

jwil 12.iii.2013, hm 15.3.