I really wish that millions of Americans could have gotten to know one of my best friends, the late Dr. Ward "Trip" Casscells. Diagnosed with inoperable cancer at the age of 52, Trip enlisted in the Army reserves and served as a medic with the title of Major on the ground during the Iraq war. When the Walter Reed Veterans Hospital scandal broke, President George W. Bush knew just who to bring in as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs to clean up that mess and win the trust of all stakeholders - including the veterans themselves.

I had the distinct privilege of not only counting Trip as among my very best friends, but he was also for a time my cardiologist and my polling colleague. We did some path breaking opinion research on preventive health care, predictive anticipation of flu epidemics, and calibrating formulas that would lead to a consensus winning formula for the Affordable Care Act. He and I jointly penned several op-ed pieces about health care reform. We were very proud of our work together.

There was so much more, however. My wife and I have had our share of health problems over the years and our buddy Trip Casscells was always there for us. I routinely turned business meetings, drinks at the Metropolitan Club, dinners with our spouses, and late evening phone calls into consultations with one of the best physicians in the world. I cherished that special opportunity and I miss him so much. Cancer took my friend in October 2012.

But he said something once in a business meeting that I will never forget and need to share. We were pitching our collaboration to the Chief Marketing Officer for a major pharmaceutical company. Touting our polling capacity and friendship, Trip added: "I only want to ensure that all Americans have the same access to quality health care that my friend John has." Trip of course was not only referring to my fully covered tests and treatment at the Texas Heart Institute (where he and I met) but also to my "24 hour hotline" to the one of the world's great physicians. Personally, I was proud and honored but there was the more important point. Why should I have a privilege that few people receive? I am not special. What I have is what everyone should have.

And that is the point. Health insurance and access to the most available treatment and consultation must not belong to royalty and the rich - it is like the water we drink and air we breathe. It belongs to us all. Our goal as a nation is not to limit it, bifurcate it, delimit it or parcel it out - but to put us on the road to equal access to the best treatment for all. Debate the costs but find the money. Fret over the details but don't dismiss it. Worry about the future but use the structure to, in the words of President Bill Clinton during the welfare reform debate of 1990s, "mend it, don't end it".

The Affordable Care Act is here to stay. Almost 20 million more Americans are now insured since it passed and more will come. Several initially reluctant and even hostile governors are now looking for ways to establish Medicaid expansion and set up state health care exchanges. It is far from perfect but it is a huge step in the right direction. And the ACA is not even an issue in the 2014 campaign.

Access to the best health care for all is a perfect tribute to Dr. Trip Casscells. May we live to see a world where the best and the brightest caregivers and experts are merely a phone call away.