Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Health Care Reform Takes Effect Today

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by Tim Walker

Today, the landmark Affordable Care Act, signed into law six months ago, begins to go into effect, delivering crucial benefits and protections to families across the country.

“September 23 is a new day for American consumers in our health care system,” Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, remarked last week. “This is the day that a series of new rights, benefits, and protections begin to bring to an end some of the worst abuses of the insurance industry.”

It is a day Michelle Frola has been waiting for.

“For so long, I’ve been tired of hearing all the distortions and lies about the health care reform law,” says Frola, a kindergarten teacher in Iola, Wisconsin. “But I knew that it would have real benefits for me, my family and many of my students.”

Of the key changes taking effect today, it is the lifting of lifetime caps that has most immediate significance for Frola and her family. Last spring, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. After just one hospital visit, the cost of the treatment had already topped $35,000.  Frola’s mother, like millions of other Americans, have insurance that sets a limit on what it will pay to cover medical costs over a lifetime. Beginning today, insurance companies can no longer put these limits on the benefits of people with costly conditions, including cancer.

Beginning on September 23rd, millions of Americans will benefit from the first wave of reforms implemented by the Affordable Care Act.

“I can’t tell you what a relief this will be,” said Frola. “We just feel more protected than before.”

In addition to the elimination of lifetime caps, reforms kicking in today for many health plans include a ban on denying coverage to children with pre-existing coverage, free preventative care and a provision allowing parents can to keep their adult children on their health pans until age 26. (For a more in-depth look at these changes and a timeline of when future reforms take effect, check out “Understanding the Affordable Care Act” on Healthcare.gov)

The National Education Association was a strong supporter of the health care reform bill during the legislative process and believes the new law will continue to deliver comprehensive benefits to the American people. NEA has been tracking the Affordable Care Act’s implementation and analyzing its impact on its members.

“As we start to apply the insurance market protections that so many people so desperately need, it’s great to see NEA members from around the country begin to benefit from our hard-fought health care reform battles,” noted NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Some employers are making it easy, and some aren’t, but we’re moving forward with reform.”

With some of the law’s benefits being rolled out across the country, the White House is using the law’s six-month anniversary this week to reintroduce it to skeptical voters and trumpet the new reforms before the November elections.

“When people better understand the Affordable Care Act, they’ll understand that this isn’t something being done to them but is something that’s really going to be valuable to them,” President Obama said earlier this week. “The debate in Washington is over. The Affordable Care Act is now law.”

Michelle Frola is ready to do her part and spread the word. Over the past year, she has seen and heard how scare tactics and relentless partisanship have dominated the discussion over health care reform. Even though it will take time, Frola believes that many Americans will finally be able to put the debate, media spin and distortions behind them and see for themselves how the Affordable Care Act provides tangible, long-lasting benefits that will improve their lives.

“Putting a complex law like this into action is going to be hard, and, let’s face it, insurance companies play their games. But what I’ve been telling people is that now consumers will have real tools and protection. And the law’s benefits don’t end on September 23rd – just wait, there’s more coming.”

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