President Barack Obama has done what, despite their bold efforts, many Presidents before him failed to do: Signing the nation's first comprehensive health care reform bill into law.
"We're fired up and ready to go" chanted the crowd of 300 plus lawmakers, and public officials that crammed into the East Room of the White House. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were among those who looked on when Vice President Joe Biden put this moment into context. "Starting with Teddy Roosevelt, they've tried," Biden said. "They were real bold leaders. But Mr. President, they fell short."
While the bill signing was clearly a feather in Obama's cap, he marked the day as a turning point for the countless uninsured families who will now get relief. "I'm signing it for 11-year-old Marcelas Owens," the President said. "Marcelas lost his mom to an illness, and she didn't have insurance...So in her memory, he has told her story across America so that no other children have to go through what his family's experienced."
The impact of the health care bill on African American will be unmistakable. Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes believes as many as 7 million African Americans will now receive coverage. "African Americans suffer disproportionately from a number of illnesses," she said,"So we know if you have a pre-existing condition and aren't able to get coverage, we are going to provide you with protection."
Covering pre-existing conditions is only one of the reforms you can expect right away. Starting this year, tax credits will be offered to small businesses, lifetime coverage restrictions will be lifted and children up to age 26 can be covered by their parents' insurance plans. A dream decades in the making, will have an immediate effect on the millions who will now have the health coverage they desperately need.