On March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act, often called "Obamacare," was signed into law. Its two "safety net" predecessors, Social Security and Medicare, have saved many lives and have provided dignity to millions of Americans. Following in those footsteps, Obamacare is destined to do the same. Despite the many and varied assaults on its very existence, the Supreme Court found the Affordable Care Act to be constitutional, and it is gaining public understanding and popularity.
President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law because he wanted all Americans to be able to obtain health insurance. As we are all aware, going to the doctor or the hospital has become increasingly expensive. One visit to the emergency room costs, on average, $1,265. One chemotherapy treatment for cancer can range from $7,000 to $20,000. A routine knee or hip replacement can
Before Obamacare, health care costs had become the number one cause of bankruptcy. Before Obamacare, if someone lost a job, had a pre-existing condition, or reached a lifetime, or even yearly, cap on medical costs, they could easily find themselves plunged into bankruptcy.
The Affordable Care Act will put a stop to these financially devastating experiences. President Obama's vision for his landmark legislation was to strengthen American health care, extending it to millions of children and adults who previously had no insurance.
Obamacare will be phased in over five years; some changes are already happening:
- Parents can add their adult children, up to age 26, to their insurance plans.
- Insurance companies cannot drop participants who become ill; they cannot set caps.
- Insurance companies cannot deny coverage to children for any pre-existing condition (This will be extended to adults in 2014).
- Mammograms, colonoscopies and other preventive health measures are now covered by Medicare.
- Small businesses (especially those with fewer than 25 employees) will be given tax credits to encourage them to provide health care coverage.
- Wellness and pregnancy exams are now free of co-pays.
- Insurance companies must get approval from state governments before raising premium payments.
- The gap in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage — the "donut hole" — will be decreased in stages.
- States will be assisted in setting up insurance "marketplaces" to make it easier for people to shop for private health insurance.
- The federal government will provide subsidies to states to add to Medicaid those who cannot afford to purchase health insurance. It is estimated that 30 million adults and children without coverage will obtain health insurance as a result of Obamacare. Emergency rooms, over time, will no longer be used as a substitute for primary care doctors and preventive care.
March 23 is a date to celebrate the dream of universal health care coverage envisioned by Teddy Roosevelt. It was kept alive by Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy — even Richard Nixon. It became a reality in America due to President Obama's leadership, vision, and persistence!
Bob Haisman is a member of Organizing for Action – Oak Park.