On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, putting in place comprehensive reforms that improve access to affordable health coverage for everyone and protect consumers from abusive insurance company practices.
During the legislative session of 2013, Republican legislators in Florida blocked access to affordable health care reforms to 1.2 million Floridians, rejecting more than $50 billion dollars from the Federal Government. These actions may sacrifice 120,000 permanent jobs and leave business with up to $150 million in additional healthcare costs. Florida legislators pay only $8.34 a month for health insurance subsidized with tax dollars of Floridians, yet those same legislators rejected Federal tax dollars Floridians should be getting back to lower healthcare costs. Republicans continue to play partisan politics with the health of Floridians and our ability to protect and care for our loved ones. In October of 2013 the Republican Congress shutdown the federal government in a desperate political effort to thwart the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats remain committed to providing comprehensive health coverage to all Americans despite opposition and issues with implementation of the ACA.
The Affordable Care Act brings healthcare coverage to millions of Americans while strengthening coverage and protections. Some Americans will see changes to their existing insurance policies, and some may be discontinued if insurance companies opt not to extend coverage to meet the new standards of the Affordable Care Act. All insured and uninsured who don’t get their coverage through work can use the new Health Insurance Marketplace to comparison shop for quality, affordable plans that meet their health care needs.
Understanding the Reforms
Stronger Consumer Rights and Protections
- End to Pre-Existing Condition Discrimination: Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition like asthma and diabetes, providing peace of mind for parents of the more than 17.6 million children with pre-existing conditions. Starting in 2014, no American can be discriminated against due to a pre-existing condition.
- End to Limits on Care: In the past, some people with cancer or other chronic illnesses ran out of insurance coverage because their health care expenses reached a dollar limit imposed by their insurance company. Under the health care law, insurers can no longer impose lifetime dollar limits on essential health benefits and annual limits are being phased out by 2014. More than 105 million Americans no longer have lifetime limits thanks to the new law. in 2014, no American can be discriminated against due to a pre-existing condition.
- End to Coverage Cancellations: Insurance companies can no longer drop your coverage when you get sick due to a mistake you made on your application.
More Affordable Coverage
- Value for Your Premium Dollar: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s 80/20 rule, if insurance companies don’t spend at least 80 percent of your premium dollar on medical care and quality improvements rather than advertising, overhead and bonuses for executives, they will have to provide you a rebate. In 2012, 8.5 million people received half a billion dollars in refunds.
- Stopping Unreasonable Rate Increases: In every State and for the first time ever, insurance companies are required to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10 percent or more.
- Small Business Tax Credits: Small businesses have long paid a premium price for health insurance – often 18 percent more than larger employers. The tax credit will benefit an estimated 2 million workers who get their insurance from an estimated 360,000 small employers who will receive the credit in 2011 alone.
Better Access to Care
- Free Prevention Benefits: Insurers are now required to cover a number of recommended preventive services, such as cancer, diabetes and blood pressure screenings, without additional cost sharing such as copays or deductibles. Already, 54 million Americans with private health coverage have gotten better preventive services coverage as a result.
- Coverage for Young Adults: Under the law, most young adults who can’t get coverage through their jobs can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 – a change that has already allowed 3.1 million young adults to get health coverage and given their families peace of mind.
- Coverage for Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions: Before the law, many Americans with pre-existing conditions were locked or priced out of the health insurance market. More than 50,000 Americans with pre-existing conditions have gained coverage through the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. This temporary program makes health coverage available and more affordable for individuals who are uninsured and have been denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. In 2014, insurance discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition will be illegal.
- Affordable Insurance Exchanges: Affordable Insurance Exchanges are one-stop marketplaces where consumers can choose a private health insurance plan that fits their health needs. Starting in 2014, they will offer to the public the same kinds of insurance choices members of Congress will have. Exchanges will select health plans qualified to offer coverage; facilitate consumer assistance, shopping and enrollment; and coordinate eligibility for the Exchange and potential premium assistance. Already, 33 States and the District of Columbia are on their way to building Exchanges, having received at total of nearly $670 million in Exchange Establishment Grants.
- Lower Cost Prescription Drugs: In the past, as many as one in four seniors went without a prescription every year because they couldn’t afford it. To help these seniors, the law provides relief for people in the donut hole – the ones with the highest prescription drug costs. As a first step, in 2010, nearly four million people in the donut hole received a $250 check to help with their costs. In 2011, 3.6 million people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount worth a total of $2.1 billion, or an average of $604 per person, on their brand name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. Seniors will see additional savings on covered brand-name and generic drugs while in the coverage gap until the gap is closed in 2020.
- Free Preventive Services: Under the new law, seniors can receive recommended preventive services such as flu shots, diabetes screenings, as well as a new Annual Wellness Visit, free of charge. So far, more than 32.5 million seniors have already received one or more free preventive services, including the new Annual Wellness Visit.
- Fighting Fraud: The health care law helps stop fraud with tougher screening procedures, stronger penalties, and new technology. Thanks in part to these efforts, we recovered $4.1 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2011, the second year recoveries hit this record-breaking level. Total recoveries over the last three years were $10.7 billion. Prosecutions are way up, too: the number of individuals charged with fraud increased from 821 in fiscal year 2008 to 1,430 in fiscal year 2011 – nearly a 75 percent increase.
- Improving Care Coordination and Quality: Through the newly established Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, this Administration is testing and supporting innovative new health care models that can reduce costs and strengthen the quality of health care. So far, it has introduced 16 initiatives involving over 50,000 health care providers that will touch the lives of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in all 50 states.
- Providing Choices while Lowering Costs: The number of seniors who joined Medicare Advantage plans increased by 17 percent between 2010 and 2012 while the premiums for such plans dropped by 16 percent – and seniors across the nation have a choice of health plans.