Since the law took effect, the growth of health care costs has slowed to its lowest rate in 50 years, and hundreds of thousands of small businesses have received tax credits to provide health care to their employees.
Ever since President Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform, a century’s worth of presidents have tried and with a few exceptions, have failed to achieve it. Three years ago, however, we passed The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a historic health care reform package that expands coverage for tens of millions of Americans and gives peace of mind to countless others.
In just three short years, the ACA’s benefits are already being felt. Since the law took effect, the growth of health care costs has slowed to its lowest rate in 50 years, and hundreds of thousands of small businesses have received tax credits to provide health care to their employees. Over 100 million Americans have received free preventive services like cancer screenings and blood tests, 6.6 million young adults have been able to stay on their parents’ insurance plan, and 6.1 million seniors previously caught in the “donut hole” have received over $5.7 billion in prescription drug benefits. The law has extended the life of Medicare an additional eight years by ending wasteful subsidies and instituting other cost savings. By the time the ACA is fully implemented, over 30 million Americans, including 17 million children, will join the ranks of those with health coverage. The law has gotten high marks from New Yorkers as well; in a poll taken last summer, 53 percent of New Yorkers want to see the ACA fully implemented, while only 37 percent want to see it repealed.
But the success of the ACA will not be shown through statistics or polling; it will be shown through the lives that will be improved and saved by its provisions. Chief among the ACAs accomplishments is stopping insurance companies from denying coverage to an individual with a pre-existing condition. I met a woman who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at an early age, and was denied coverage for her entire life because of her condition. She lived in constant fear of an accident or illness because she never had health insurance until she was eligible for Medicare. In the past, women who had breast cancer, a c-section, or even were victims of domestic violence could be denied coverage because they were labeled as having a pre-existing condition. In some cases, women were even charged more for their insurance than their male counterparts. No longer will this be the case.
One of the most important but least-discussed provisions in the law is the 80/20 rule, which stipulates that 80 cents of every premium dollar spent on individual plans must go towards medical care instead of corporate bonuses, advertising, lobbying, or other expenses that have little impact on improving your health. This is a major tool in controlling the cost of health care, which remains one of our biggest challenges as a nation.
There is still a lot of work to be done to implement the ACA, and opponents of the law have thrown up every roadblock possible. Special interest groups opposing the law have spent over $235 million in political ads calling for repeal. In the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner has held over 30 votes to repeal the ACA, none of which have been successful. There are a number of states that have refused to develop in-state health care exchanges on the far-fetched chance that the law will be repealed or overturned, a notion that should be abandoned in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the law is constitutional and the re-election of President Obama.
Page 2 of 2 - Like any major piece of legislation, future Congresses will change the law based on what works and what doesn’t work. But after three years, it is clear that the ACA is improving the lives of so many Americans by expanding coverage for millions and bringing down the cost of health care for everyone.
Rep. Louise Slaughter represents New York’s 25th congressional district, which includes most of Monroe County.