By Laura Julstrom, BA and Diana Zuckerman, PhD
Do you want affordable, quality health care for yourself and those you love? Whether you’re insured or not, chances are the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed into law in 2010, has already improved your and your family’s access to health care. But if you listen to the “experts” shouting about “Obamacare” on TV, you could miss out on how it can help you and your family.
If you’re already insured:
- You can now add your adult children (up to age 26) for the same price as younger children.
- Your insurance company can no longer cancel your policy just because you get sick.
- Soon Medicare and insurance companies will have to pay for preventive services, and they can’t exclude pre-existing conditions or disability.
No one should have to declare bankruptcy to pay their medical bills!
The last of the changes mandated by the legislation won’t go into effect until 2014, but those improvements may never go into effect if we don’t make our voices heard. The law is under attack from people who are trying to chisel away at it until there’s nothing left (call this death by a thousand paper cuts). From March 26th to the 28th, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of parts of the Affordable Care Act. There was extensive media coverage, and the debate we heard in the news was political, rather than focusing on how to help all of us get the medical care we need at prices we can afford.
The bottom line: This law is not perfect but it will help millions of Americans if it is properly implemented. The bill puts an end to some of the worst insurance company practices and improves health care options for women, children, and people with pre-existing conditions or disabilities. (Perhaps this is why so many insurance companies and their lobbyists oppose it.) It includes prevention services and strengthens community health programs. The law has been helping patients and consumers since 2010 and will continue to improve health care over the next two years.
What the health care law has already done for you and your family:
- Insurance companies can no longer put limits or a lifetime “cap” on how much they will pay for your essential health benefits.
- Insurance companies can’t cancel your insurance coverage because you get sick or make an honest mistake on your insurance application form.
- Insurance companies cannot increase (by 10% or more) how much they charge you without justifying it first to your state or federal Rate Review program.
- Most of the premiums you pay must be used to provide or improve health care (not just to make more money for insurance companies).
- Seniors can now more easily afford prescription drugs.
- Many young adults under 26 can be covered by their family’s plan.
- Insurance must pay for preventative care (mammograms/cervical cancer screenings/colonoscopies/depression screenings) and provide it free of charge.
- Patients have direct access to an ob-gyn without needing a referral.
- Children cannot be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
How you will benefit this year and in the coming years:
- By August 2012, women’s preventative services will be covered by insurers at no additional cost (contraception, well woman visits, lactation counseling, domestic violence counseling, HPV and AIDS/HIV screening).
- By 2014, no one can be denied coverage or charged more for coverage because of sex, disability, or medical history.
This sounds like a big improvement, doesn’t it? So, why are so many “experts” opposing it? Some (such as insurance companies) will make more money if the law is killed. And, for many, opposition to the law is political: even Republicans like Mitt Romney whose Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law helped inspire the ACA, and Newt Gingrich who enthusiastically supported the Massachusetts law, now have to oppose the ACA to win votes. Let’s not listen to Rush Limbaugh. This law will improve the quality of health care and reduce the costs of it for you and your family. Get the facts not the hype from www.healthcare.gov for the full story.