Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to tie the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with President Barack Obama’s health care law using the White House website on Monday.
King, who led the March on Washington 50 years ago, used the phrase “fierce urgency of now” when talking about the civil rights struggle. Sebelius said the term applies to the implementation of Obamacare, as the new health exchanges with government-approved insurance plans prepare to open on Oct. 1.
“A half century later, Dr. King’s words have renewed meaning,” Sebelius said in a White House blog post.
“Without the opportunity to live a healthy life, there is no opportunity to live the American dream or participate fully in our communities,” Sebelius added later. “Without the freedom which comes from having access to quality health care, there is no freedom to reach our full potential in the workforce or watch our kids or grandkids grow up. Without the security of health insurance, there is no economic security for middle-class families, and so many other families working their way into the middle class.”
Sebelius then quoted a speech from King to the Medical Committee for Human Rights, when he said, “Of all forms of injustice, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
The secretary went on to write about her father Jack Gilligan, a Democratic politician who represented Ohio in the House of Representatives before he was elected governor of the state, and his votes for both civil rights and Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s.
“My dad strongly supported the Voting Rights Act, and he helped write the Medicare and Medicaid laws,” Sebelius said. “He saw all these struggles as connected to the broader goal of a more perfect union.”
She continued, “Today, this legacy continues. The Affordable Care Act is the most powerful law for reducing health disparities since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965.”