January 20, 2001: our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over.
The Affordable Care Act and What it Means to You
This week, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted for the 33rd time in 18 months to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But even if that act of political theater is over for now, Republicans will keep repeating their favorite parts of the right-wing script well past Election Day in November. That their tried and untrue lines about "the largest tax increase in history," Obamacare "adding to the debt," a "government takeover of health care" (Politifact's 2010 Lie of the Year) and, of course, "death panels" (Politifact's 2009 Lie of the Year) have been thoroughly debunked won't prevent conservatives from continuing to mouth them.
And that debate-distorting performance is literally sickening. Because while some of the GOP's best and brightest darkly warn that the Affordable Act may kill you, other Republicans insist the lives of some Americans aren't worth saving. Meanwhile, without the ACA fully in place, study after study after study show the status quo has a real body count, with up to 45,000 of the uninsured dying unnecessarily each year. Nevertheless, the party of Romney, Ryan, Boehner and McConnell would prevent 30 million people from gaining the health insurance they need and millions more the basic patient protections they deserve.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave the game away two weeks ago on Fox News when said of those 30 million uninsured, "That's not the issue." But a more telling episode came during the September 2011 tea party/GOP presidential debate. As ABC reported, the tea partiers who protested Democratic health care reform in 2009 by holding a "die-in" at Senate offices cheered Ron Paul on when he said churches, not government, should address the U.S. health care crisis.
"House Republicans generally avoided talk of replacement measures on Tuesday as they mobilized for an election-season vote to repeal the health care law that stands as President Barack Obama's signature domestic accomplishment," according to CBS News.
Instead, they lambasted the 2-year-old law as a threat to the nation's economic recovery and predicted some Democrats would join them in repudiating it. "This is nothing short of economic malpractice," said Rep. Nan Hayworth of New York, citing tax increases, government mandates and other items in the law. "We can and we must do better." She did not elaborate, nor did any of the members of the leadership in their remarks to reporters after the meeting.
So it is a good time to review the value of this reform, in the face of Republican efforts to simply repeal, with no talk from their end, on alternatives.
President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act to restore health care as a basic cornerstone of middle-class security in America. The law will make health care more affordable for families and small businesses and brings much-needed transparency to the insurance industry. When fully implemented, the reform will keep insurance companies from taking advantage of consumers—including denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and cancelling coverage when someone gets sick.
Because of the new law, 34 million more Americans will gain coverage—many who will be able to afford insurance for the first time. Once the law is fully implemented, about 95 percent of Americans under age 65 will have insurance.
Providing security to working families
Working families are protected from losing their health care or being forced into bankruptcy when a family member gets sick or is in an accident. Families have the security of knowing their health insurance will be there when they need it most.
Insurance companies are now required to justify rate hikes, and consumers have the ability to appeal to an independent third party when insurance companies refuse to cover services or care.
Starting in 2014, all Americans will have access to affordable health insurance no matter their circumstances—whether they change jobs, lose their job, decide to start a business, or retire early. Purchasing private insurance in the new state-based health insurance exchanges could save middle-class families who can’t get employer-provided insurance thousands of dollars.
Once fully implemented, the law will slow health care premium growth rates, adding another $2,000 to family savings by 2019.
The law is expected to reduce the deficit by $127 billion from 2012 to 2021.
Young People and Health Reform
Young adults are now eligible to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans as they enter the workforce, until they turn 26. Since the health care law passed, 2.5 million young adults—traditionally the group least likely to be insured—gained insurance because of the Affordable Care Act.
Keeping Health Care Costs Low
Before health reform, insurance premiums were skyrocketing, and the shared cost of caring for the uninsured added $1,000 to the typical family’s policy. The Affordable Care Act promotes better value through preventive and coordinated care, and eliminates waste and abuses.
The Affordable Care Act also helps keep insurance premiums down. Insurance companies must publicly justify excessive rate hikes and provide rebates if they don’t spend at least 80 percent of premiums on care instead of overhead, marketing, and profits. As many as 9 million consumers are expected to get up to $1.4 billion in rebates because the President passed the Affordable Care Act.
Ending discrimination for pre-existing conditions
Fact: The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) provides insurance to people with health conditions who have been uninsured for six months, helping those with cancer or other serious conditions to get the treatment they need.
Ending lifetime limits
Before the Affordable Care Act, more than half of all private insurance plans included a lifetime limit on coverage—and nearly 20,000 people hit a lifetime cap each year. The Affordable Care Act banned these caps, and those who had already hit a lifetime limit will be eligible for unlimited coverage.
Fact: More than 47 million Medicare beneficiaries now have access to free health services—including an annual wellness visit, mammograms, and other health screenings—to help detect and treat medical conditions early.
Fact: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, nearly 3.6 million seniors who fell into the Medicare “doughnut hole” last year saved an average of $604 on prescription drugs.
Children and Health Reform
Fact: Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could deny coverage to children with medical conditions. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, as many as 17 million children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance.
Fact: All new insurance plans are required to cover certain preventive services without charging a co-pay or deductible.
Small Business and Health Reform
Millions of small businesses are now eligible for a tax credit to help pay for their health care premiums. The credit will increase to cover 50 percent of premium costs in 2014.
Under the Affordable Care Act, help for small businesses—including the new insurance exchanges—will reduce small business health care spending by nearly 9 percent, according to independent estimates.