Today marks the six-month anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or health insurance reform. However, as was the entirety of the health care debate in this country, the past six months have been marked by political rhetoric and misinformation about what the new law actually does for consumers.
Starting today, a number of key consumer protections will kick in that put an end to the very worst insurance company practices, like denying children under the age of 19 coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. In addition, the new law will allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26. Further, the law eliminates lifetime limits on the amount of coverage you can get from an insurance policy and denies insurance companies from dropping you from your policy just because you get sick.
According to the Missouri Public Interest Research Group, the new changes make coverage available for an estimated 20,000 young Missourians. As young people are the age group most likely to be uninsured, the provisions in the new law represent a giant step forward in closing this insurance gap.
The new law also works to provide free preventative care for patients. As of today, all new plans must cover certain preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies without charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance.
Already, seniors are receiving rebates on their prescription drugs in the form of a $250 check. This will work to close the Medicare Part D “donut hole.” By 2020 the donut hole will be closed entirely.
Over the past decade, the number of small businesses offering health insurance has decreased as costs have increased. Now under the new law small businesses will be provided with a tax credit to help cover the cost of providing insurance to their employees. According to the IRS, 94,300 small businesses in Missouri could be helped by new tax credits.
Once the law is fully implemented, insurance companies will not be able to deny any of us coverage because we have an illness, or drop us when we do, or force us into bankruptcy because of caps on how much of our health care they’ll pay for. And beginning next year consumers will have a right to a refund if their insurance company spends too much on administrative costs or CEOs salary rather than actual health care.
Throughout the debate on health care reform we have seen the clear choice that we have as consumers and as voters. This new law provides a health care foundation that works to protect consumers from insurance company abuse. Despite this fact, there are serious efforts on the part of many Republicans to repeal the new law. As consumers, we need a health care policy in this country that works for us, not the insurance companies. Calls for repeal are not only misguided but would represent a huge step backwards for consumers.
Today’s benchmark for health care reform should be a wake up call. It’s time to move beyond partisan rhetoric and look to the actual benefits of the new law.