In addition to my post below, I encourage you to read today's post by dansac titled "How HCR is helping real lives 'It really is a pinch-me moment", as well as The New York Times excellent profile of real families being helped by health care reform.
Its good to be speaking with you again. Having been involved with such dedicated advocates for progressive ideals energizes me when times are tough and the hill looks steep and long. Kossacks have been a much needed voice over the past two years in particular, as the Democratic Congress has led an uphill battle to solve vital issues facing all Americans today. One such issue is of course, healthcare. Today, we celebrate a milestone as new elements of the Affordable Care Act become law. Among the changes:
If you currently have health insurance, the following changes take effect at the start of your plan year:
•Your health coverage cannot be arbitrarily cancelled if you become sickIf you are buying a new health insurance plan, you will have the above protections, plus:
•Your child cannot be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition
•Your child can stay on your health plan up to age 26
•Your health plan cannot put a lifetime limit on your health coverage
•Your health plan’s annual limits are phased out over three years
•You have the right to key preventative services without deductible or co-paymentsIn human terms, this means that today, a recent college graduate who cannot find work will be able to receive healthcare while they search for their first job. Today, a child born into the world will not go without health coverage because an insurance company doesn’t want to pay for a “pre-existing condition”. Today, insurance companies will be forced to begin the process of eliminating annual limits, so when you get sick, you can get affordable care until you’re healthy, not until your insurance no longer wants to pay.
•You have the right to both an internal and external appeal
•You have the right to choose your own doctor
•You have the right to access to out-of-network emergency room care at in-network sharing rates
In short, today marks another day where the Democratic Congress has taken action to value American lives over insurance company profits.
Early this week, The New York Times reported on the Republican’s plan to dismantle as much of the Affordable Care Act as possible. As reported by Robert Pear on Tuesday morning, “Republicans are serious. Hopeful of picking up substantial numbers of seats in the Congressional elections, they are developing plans to try to repeal or roll back President Obama’s new health care law.”
Senator Lamar Alexander declared:
“If there was a straight bill to repeal the health care law, I would vote for it because I think it’s such a historic mistake. If that doesn’t succeed, I think we’ll go step by step. We can try to delay funding of some provisions and remove some of the taxes.”Yet Republican threats come at a time when Americans are receiving the reforms to the health care system that they desperately want, and new independent reports are showing that healthcare is becoming more affordable for small businesses.
Early this month, RAND Corp. published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that health care reform will increase the percentage of workers at small businesses with coverage from 60% to 86% -- an increase of 43%. The report goes on to state that increased access to more affordable health care coverage for small businesses and their employees is “owing to wider risk pooling, low administrative costs, and expanded choices”, all stemming from the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
At the same time, tax credits, available to small businesses immediately, have begun to provide tens of thousands of dollars to the small businesses that so often cannot afford to provide health insurance to their employees. As I write, 84% of small businesses are eligible for these tax credits to offset healthcare costs for their employees. These tax credits are allowing business owners to provide their employees with healthcare coverage even in these tough economic times. [see Walecia Konrad, New York Times, “Lightening the Health Care Load for Small Business”, September 17, 2010].
These changes are in stark contrast to the out of control healthcare costs small businesses have been struggling with for a decade. Insurance costs for small businesses have increased 129% since 2000. Small business employees pay an average of 18% more in premiums than those in large firms for the same benefits. Their deductibles are more than double, and up to 25% of the costs of premiums are for administrative costs for some small business health plans, compared to 10% for large firms.
Yet thanks to the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, small businesses are able to provide healthcare coverage in these tough economic times. Coupled with the very important reforms going into law today, more Americans will be able to obtain secure, affordable healthcare they can rely upon when they need it the most.
It has been a long process to get the most basic changes in our healthcare system. Lord knows that our newest legislation isn’t perfect. For example, I have deep reservations about women’s reproductive rights in this legislation.
However, we can’t move ahead if we refuse to take a step. The Affordable Care Act is an important step in the right direction. It’s a law that provides healthcare to those who need it, and it’s a fulfillment of America’s promise of a better life.
I encourage you to share your thoughts about today’s milestone. Due to a couple meetings this evening, I'm unable to participate in the comments section as I usually like to do. However, I will review all of your comments and will provide additional updates in the very near future. Thank you again for your continued vigilance and effort on healthcare and other important progressive issues. I assure that I remain as committed as ever to realizing your dreams and ideals. Thank you for accepting me as a member of your community, and letting me join you in our continued fight for a better healthcare system and a better America.