Republicans and talk radio hosts have been blasting the Obamacare healthcare law relentlessly for five full years, but former U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd sees it differently.
On the recent fifth anniversary of the first committee vote in favor of the bill, Dodd told The Courant about how he took over for the ailing Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts in a key Senate committee during the hot summer of 2009 to pass the historic bill.
The final bill did not pass until Christmas Eve, and it has become one of the most-talked-about pieces of legislation in American history. While the critics disagree, Dodd says that the law is now working.
Dodd, who did not seek reelection to the Senate in 2010, was in the legislative trenches when the heavy lifting began in the summer of 2009 for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, known as the HELP Committee.
"We started in June and went day after day after day, including weekends,'' Dodd said in an interview. "788 amendments were filed. It took 23 days of work – actual sessions. 287 amendments were actually debated. 161 Republican amendments were accepted. When people tell me this was not bipartisan – 49 Republican amendments were rejected, but 161 were accepted. 161 became the law of the land.''
Dodd said he believes those numbers have not been widely reported, saying that many citizens are completely unaware that 161 Republican amendments became part of Obamacare.
"On a personal note, in that month, my sister Martha, died,'' Dodd said of her death on July 6, 2009. "Ted Kennedy, my dearest friend in the Senate, died. It was a lot, personally and substantively.''
All of the early work on healthcare came before the August break for Congress in 2009 - when critics started picking apart the bill.
"Tremendous misinformation occurred - things like death panels,'' said Dodd, who now serves as chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America.
While Dodd defends the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have steadily criticized its flaws - and the U.S. House of Representatives has voted more than 40 times to repeal the law.
"Things of this magnitude are never without its glitches,'' Dodd said. "You can spend time talking about the glitches. There's not much news in planes that fly. What's not as exciting is what is working [such as] prevention and wellness. It's great stuff.''
Today, he says that 1.5 million citizens with preexisting health conditions are now covered by insurance.
"Most insurers no longer deny coverage for a preexisting condition,'' he said.
"It's working,'' Dodd said of the law. "You've had leadership in 25 other states to expand Medicaid - even in states with Republican administrations.''
"I once asked Ted Kennedy, 'Did you ever miss any opportunities?' He said Richard Nixon in 1968 offered a healthcare plan, not unlike the one that passed. He said, 'We should have taken it. We made that mistake. We should have taken it.' He thought we missed an opportunity.''
Dodd recently thanked his staff on the anniversary of their work in June and July of 2009.
"Five years goes by quickly,'' Dodd said. "I called Ted Kennedy's widow – Vickie --- at 7 a.m. It was five years ago at about 7 am. when I got a call from Senator Kennedy and he was over-the-top excited that his committee was the first committee to report out a bill.''
'It will get better with time,'' Dodd said of the law. "It's actually working. The numbers are there.''Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun