By Charlie Williams
On Friday, March 23, The Affordable Care Act will celebrate the second anniversary of its signing into law by President Obama. The Affordable Care Act is already benefiting millions of people from infants to the oldest senior citizen in America today. The Alliance for Retired Americans has just released a bulletin laying out the many benefits already being enjoyed by Americans nationwide thanks to the Affordable Care Act with promises of more benefits yet to come.
Infants and young adults
Among the many benefits already being enjoyed by millions of Americans include free preventive care services for infant children. This provision requires insurance companies to cover comprehensive screening and preventive care including well-child visits. Also it is estimated that 14.1 million children age 0 to 17 will no longer be required to pay costs for those services and 2.5 million young adults can now stay on their parents' health care plan up to age 26 thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
Protecting women’s care is another provision already at work in the program. The act prevents insurance companies from charging women up to 150 times more than men for coverage for their health care plan. It also means the insurance company will no longer be able to use caesarean sections or domestic violence as a pre-existing condition to deny women health care coverage and they will no longer be able to drop coverage if a woman becomes sick. Currently, more than 20 million women have received preventive services, such as free mammograms, birth control aids and well child visits without the burden of co-payments thanks to the new Affordable Care Act. The new law also requires insurance companies to offer maternity and new born care. And the Affordable Care Act ends lifetime limits on health care coverage.
Senior citizens under Part D Medicare are benefiting greatly with the 50 percent discount on prescription drugs which have already saved $2.1 billion for 3.6 million seniors who hit the donut hole in 2011. In California alone, 319,429 seniors saved $171, 983,735 in 2011 through Feb. 2, 2012. The Affordable Care Act also provided 32.5 million seniors with free preventive care benefits in 2011 as well as free annual wellness visits. Meanwhile Medicare Advantage premiums decreased 7 percent from 2011 to 2012 while enrollment in Part D Medicare increased thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
Small Business Owners
The Affordable Care Act will benefit small business by lowering health care costs while providing more choices by allowing them to band together in health care exchanges that will be created in each state. This provision will allow small businesses to receive the same premium rates as large companies. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies charged small companies an average of 18 percent more in premiums than larger companies. In the last year 29 states received $700 million to establish the exchange, which will give American families and small business the same health insurance as members of congress now receive, according to USA Today. The Affordable Care Act also lowers the tax burden for 4 million small businesses to make health care more affordable.
Insurance Company Abuses
Finally, the Affordable Care Act ends the worst of insurance companies abuses such as denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition. The act provides 86 million Americans with free preventive care while ending lifetime limits on your coverage. It bans insurance companies from dropping coverage due to errors based on unintentional mistakes in their paperwork. The act makes sure that your premium dollars are spent on care, not profits for insurance companies. Insurance companies will now be required to spend 85 percent of your premium dollars on health care, not administrative cost and profits.
From Cradle to Grave
So Americans from the youngest among us to the most senior citizen should rejoice in what has already been put in place through the Affordable Care Act and look forward to the many other benefits yet to come. Social Security and Medicare both started out with far fewer benefits when first enacted benefits that we now take for granted. The Affordable Care Act is not perfect and I would have preferred Congress enact a Single Payer plan, but the Affordable Care Act is a great start. The Massachusetts plan which is often compared to the Affordable Care Act remains very popular in Massachusetts. .
Join the Celebration
From March 19 to March 28 the Alliance for Retired Americans will be holding a nationwide week long celebration of the signing of the Affordable Care Act ending at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Look for an event in your neighborhood and join the Alliance for Retired Americans and the many other groups in celebration of the Affordable Care Act. Those who might think things were better in health care protection before the Affordable Care Act simply were not paying attention.
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.