As the husband of a family nurse practitioner, and a senior member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, I know firsthand the challenges that exist in our current health care system. That is why, in March 2010, I voted to pass Affordable Care Act (ACA) – landmark legislation that will hold insurance companies more accountable, lower health care costs, guarantee more health care choices, and enhance the quality of health care for all Americans.
Health care reform was passed and is being implemented in response to a national crisis. Millions of Americans don’t have insurance. Either they can’t afford to buy it or no one will sell it to them because they had the bad luck of having cancer or given birth via C-section. Other people are losing their jobs – and when they lose their jobs they lose their health insurance. Some people bought insurance and then when they got sick they found out the policy wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Others hit their lifetime or annual caps, which they didn’t even know they had, and were, for example, on the hook for the rest of their chemo treatments. Families had to sell everything and go bankrupt just to pay for health care. Our hospitals, doctors and clinics are providing tens of millions in uncompensated care to the people who don’t have insurance. Then they pass these costs on to the rest of us in the form of higher insurance premiums.
Many people have already experienced the law’s immediate benefits. Millions of young adults have been able to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans. More than 100 million Americans have received free preventive services. Children with pre-existing conditions no longer have to worry about being denied health care because they are sick. Seniors are saving money on prescription drugs. Insurance companies can no longer drop a woman’s coverage because she becomes pregnant, or kick people off of their insurance plan if they become sick. And, small businesses are receiving tax credits if they choose to offer coverage to their employees.
Soon, virtually all of the law will go into effect, making even more improvements to our health care system. More than 32 million people who are currently uninsured will gain access to affordable coverage through newly created health insurance exchanges. The law will put an end to the hidden taxes that all insured individuals currently pay for emergency room visits by people without insurance. Women will no longer be charged substantially higher premiums than men for the same coverage, and being a woman will no longer be treated as a “pre-existing condition” by insurance companies. And, low- and middle-income families will receive assistance purchasing their health insurance through tax credits.
As a country we have heard many false claims about health care reform. There are no death panels, there is no government takeover of health care, there is no socialized medicine, no one is going to jail for not having health insurance. The country isn’t going bankrupt and deficits aren’t exploding because of it.
This fear-mongering might be good for politics, but it’s bad for policy.
The truth is health care reform is saving money and saving lives. The bill was fully paid for. And, according to the latest available estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the health care law is also expected to reduce the federal deficit by $109 billion over the next 10 years and over $1 trillion over the following decade. Consumers are also saving money. In the summer of 2012, nearly 13 million Americans saved $1.1 billion in consumer rebates provided by the ACA. That’s because insurers were required to provide rebates if they failed to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on health care.
To learn more about the ACA, its benefits and how you it impacts you and your family, please visit healthcare.gov or call the 24-hour-a-day consumer call center (1-800-318-2596) for more information.
Reforming our health care system is an ongoing process that will not be completed with the passage of any one bill. And, while the new health care law is not perfect, it is an important first step toward making quality, affordable health care a reality for all Americans.
In the months and years ahead, we need to put politics aside, focus on the facts and work together to further improve our nation’s health care system. By building on the reforms made in the Affordable Care Act, we can make sure every American can afford to go to the doctor. And that’s what matters.
Affordable Care Act Frequently Asked Questions
If you have questions about the Affordable Care Act, click here to get answers.
CA-05 District Benefits of the Affordable Care Act
Many people in our district have benefited from the reforms made in the Affordable Care Act.
• 7,500 young adults in the district now have health insurance through their parents’ plan.
• More than 6,000 seniors in the district received prescription drug discounts worth $6.9 million, an average discount of $500 per person in 2011, $570 in 2012, and $620 thus far in 2013.
• 100,000 seniors in the district are now eligible for Medicare preventive services without paying any co-pays, coinsurance, or deductible.
• 194,000 individuals in the district – including 41,000 children and 81,000 women – now have health insurance that covers preventive services without any co-pays, coinsurance, or deductible.
• 224,000 individuals in the district are saving money due to ACA provisions that prevent insurance companies from spending more than 20% of their premiums on profits and administrative overhead. Because of these protections, over 39,800 consumers in the district received approximately $3 million in insurance company rebates in 2012 and 2011 – an average rebate of $71 per family in 2012 and $65 per family in 2011.
• Up to 38,000 children in the district with preexisting health conditions can no longer be denied coverage by health insurers.
• 236,000 individuals in the district now have insurance that cannot place lifetime limits on their coverage and will not face annual limits on coverage starting in 2014.
• 104,000 individuals in the district who lack health insurance will have access to quality, affordable coverage without fear of discrimination or higher rates because of a preexisting health condition. In addition, the 46,000 individuals who currently purchase private health insurance on the individual or small group market will have access to more secure, higher quality coverage and many will be eligible for financial assistance.