By Secretary Kathleen Sebelius - 01/18/11 10:56 PM EST
The new Patient’s Bill of Rights frees families from some of the worst abuses of insurance companies. Children are now protected from being turned away by insurers because of a pre-existing condition. Businesses are getting relief from some of the burdens of skyrocketing healthcare costs, and seniors enrolled in Medicare now have the freedom to get preventive care like mammograms and colonoscopies for free.
Repealing the law and taking away these choices and protections would be a huge mistake.
The Patient’s Bill of Rights gives millions of Americans important new health insurance protections. Insurers can no longer cancel your coverage when you get sick just because you made a mistake in your paperwork. They may no longer put lifetime dollar limits on your benefits — limits that often meant your coverage was gone when you needed it most. And by 2014, most annual dollar limits on benefits will be a thing of the past.
Repeal would take these protections away, putting millions of Americans back at the mercy of their insurance companies.
The new law also holds insurers accountable and will bring down your premiums. The law limits how much of your premiums they can spend on marketing and CEO bonuses. It also ensures every significant health insurance rate increase will undergo a thorough review and provides $250 million in grants to states to bolster their rate review process. And beginning in 2014, the law allows individuals and small business owners to pool their purchasing power through new marketplaces called Exchanges. Millions will qualify for tax credits to help them buy coverage through the Exchanges.
Altogether, it’s estimated the new law will save the average individual making $27,000 more than $1,600 on their premium beginning in 2014. A family of four making $55,000 would save an average of $6,000. Repeal would eliminate these savings for millions of Americans.
More than 5,000 businesses, local governments, and unions are taking advantage of a new program under the Affordable Care Act that gives relief from soaring retiree healthcare costs. And nearly 4 million small businesses have been notified that they may be eligible for a tax cut to help them provide coverage for their workers — a benefit that’s already making a difference.
For example, after letting local businesses know about the new tax credit, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City has enrolled more than 9,000 new members covered by 400 employers, more than a third of which did not previously offer coverage. Repeal would take these benefits away, raising costs for countless businesses at the worst possible moment.
The Affordable Care Act is also making Medicare stronger. Thanks to the new law, more than 2.8 million seniors who have fallen into the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” received $250 checks to help them afford their medications. This year, seniors in the doughnut hole will receive 50 percent discounts on name-brand drugs, and eventually the doughnut hole will be closed. Seniors can also now get critical preventive care like mammograms and colonoscopies with no co-pay or deductible. If the law is repealed, these benefits will disappear, leaving many seniors unable to afford life-saving medications and screenings.
By eliminating waste, cracking down on healthcare fraud, and making key investments in improving patient safety, the new law is extending the life of the Medicare trust fund by 12 years.
Repeal would undo these gains. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office’s latest analysis shows that repeal would increase the deficit by $230 billion over the next decade and by more than a trillion dollars in the second decade, handing a huge economic burden to our children and threatening our long-term prosperity.
The worst decision we could make for the health of our nation, the competitiveness of our businesses, and the future of our children would be to stop this progress. Repealing the law now would put our nation right back on the same unsustainable path of higher costs, skyrocketing premiums, less competition and fewer consumer protections. We can’t afford such a big step backward.
Sebelius is the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.