By Charlie Williams
The U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act is good news for all America and soon some 30 million uninsured Americans will begin to see the benefits of the Act that millions of others are already enjoying. That will include some 5 million Californians who currently have no health insurance.
Young adults are now assured they can stay on their parents' insurance coverage until age 26. For women, insurance companies must cover preventive care like mammograms, crucial for protection against cancer. Seniors under Medicare Part D have already saved $3.7 billion on their prescription drug bills and these costs savings will continue to build through the years with the entire “donut hole” eliminated by the year 2020. It also means lower Medicare costs thereby increasing the projected life of the funds thanks to the Affordable Care Act. So seniors have a lot at stake in both protecting and promoting the many benefits the Act has to offer.
Enactment of the Affordable Care Act and the long awaited Supreme Court ruling means the end of insurance company power to cap the amount of care a person can receive during their lifetime and prevents insurance companies from canceling coverage. It strengthens and protects Medicare by increasing penalties for fraud. For young parents, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and the Act ends insurance company’s power to raise premium rates without justification.
The Act provides for building and improving hundreds of community health care centers. It prevents insurance companies from charging women more for coverage than they charge men and prevents overcharging those who need care the most. Beginning in the year 2014, workers will begin receiving tax credits to help in purchasing health care coverage. Also, beginning in 2014, discrimination against adults with pre-existing conditions will no longer be allowed.
There is even a provision for rebates from health insurance companies included in the Act. Those insured will receive reimbursement from health insurance providers who exceed spending on their CEOs and promotional ads. Insurance companies must apply 80 percent of premium benefits cost toward benefits. If 80 percent is not spent on benefits, that money must be returned to the employer or to the employee and if the employers are the recipients they must apply the overage they receive to a reduction in premium cost to the employee.
Getting the Affordable Care Act passed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court was difficult and often a bitter struggle. Our country was not the only industrial country to experience long and difficult struggles to obtain a national health care program. Canada is well-known for its socialized health care program, described as a model for the world. Canada’s struggle for adoption of its health care program started back in 1947 in Saskatchewan. There were bitter divides in Canada as insurance companies and doctors resisted the change and doctors went on a three week strike. But years later in 1984, the Canadian parliament unanimously approved the Canada Health Act.
Canadian citizens, including doctors, have since come to love their health care much like we love our Medicare. Why do Canadians love their health care? I suspect it’s because it works by providing health security to all Canadians and the Canadian plan costs about half that of our current system. The history of Canada’s long struggle to adopt the Canada Health Act and its overwhelming acceptance by Canadians should serve as an excellent guide for all Americans as we learn to appreciate the many benefits of the Affordable Care Act with hope that one day soon we will improve on the Act by adopting a single-payer system.
Our struggle for a national health care system also began in the late 1940s with President Harry Truman urging Congress to adopt a national health care plan for the American people. Though Truman’s efforts failed, the cause he promoted resulted in the enactment of Medicare in 1965, some 15 years later. Since then Americans have come to love Medicare just as the Canadians have come to love the Canadian Health Care Act and there is little doubt that the success of Medicare led to the enactment by Congress of the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Finally, I feel we owe Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts, a vote of thanks for finding a way to agree with Congress that the Affordable Care Act is indeed constitutionally sound. Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, for helping preserve the integrity of our U.S. Constitution. The Affordable Care Act will serve the American people well for many years to come.
Charlie Williams is Chairman of the Field Mobilization Committee for the Alliance for Retired Americans and former Midwest States Political Director for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers AFL-CIO-CLC.