Thanks to the first phase of the Healthcare Reform law passed by Congress this spring, millions of American parents had one less thing to worry about.
For me (and the parents of 55,000 other young Virginians), it will be that my college-age daughter, who has asthma, won’t have to be taken off our family insurance until she is 26, instead of at 18 or 21. In today’s job market, the chance of a 21-year-old college student being able to get a job with insurance coverage is slim, and it would be almost impossible for her to find an individual plan because of her asthma. Fortunately, by the time she is old enough to need her own insurance, the provision barring insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions will be in place, and she’ll be able to get coverage – and the medicine that keeps her healthy. For now, I will rest easier knowing that can stay healthy as she concentrates on her studies and getting her nursing degree.
For other parents, it will be the fact that their young child can no longer be barred from getting health insurance – just because she is sick. As of September 23, an insurance company can’t refuse to provide health insurance for any child with asthma or diabetes or other pre-existing condition. Until recently, families were forced to lose their homes, their savings – sometimes even their children – because they couldn’t afford the astronomical medical bills for treatment of uninsurable kids. Now there are no uninsurable kids in America.
American leaders have been trying to enact health reform for generations – since Franklin Roosevelt proposed it as part of the Social Security Bill of 1935. He understood that no country could be strong if its people were sick and poor.
Some insurance companies – who make billions of dollars by refusing to provide coverage to folks who might get sick, and for refusing to pay claims from policies that customers have paid into for years – would have you believe that health reform is bad. They have spent millions of dollars on TV ads and smear campaigns to make the public think that there is something un-American about health reform. And conservative politicians have joined the chorus in their effort to make President Obama and his fellow Democrats, who championed the reform, look bad.
Lying to the American people about something that will benefit almost all of us is worse than dishonest: it is irresponsible and dangerous. The provisions that went into effect on September 23 – and those that will take effect in the years to come – will strengthen our economy, improve our health care system, and make life better for countless American families.
So here’s some truth. As of September 23, 2010: • Children can remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26.
• Children can’t be denied insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition. (The provision offering the same protection for adults will take effect later.)
• Restrictions will be placed on annual insurance “caps”, limits that forced many insured people to put off important medical procedures because their yearly claim limits had been reached.
• Insurance companies can no longer be able to put a lifetime cap on coverage. People with chronic, long-term illnesses won’t find themselves cut off after a few years because they have used up their lifetime amount of coverage. And a catastrophic illness won’t have to mean catastrophe for the family finances.
• New health insurance plans will now have to cover basic preventive care such as simple health screenings, mammograms and colonoscopies – procedures that help keep people healthy and prevent more expensive treatment later. This new emphasis on preventive care will make all of us healthier and will eventually lower health care costs for everyone.
Poll after poll shows that when the provisions of the new law are explained, Americans overwhelmingly support it. Now that we have taken real, concrete measures toward reforming our health care system, there are millions of Americans who need to understand their rights as patients and should be made aware of the consumer protections now available to them.
Let’s start by telling the truth.
For more information about the new health care law: http://www.healthcare.gov
Kristin Szakos is a former reporter with the Associated Press and the Appalachian News-Express, former editor of The Appalachian Reader, and now a freelance writer and editor. She serves on the Charlottesville City Council.