By Paul Hodes
When President Obama took office, America’s health care system was in crisis. Our health care was in the exclusive grip of insurance companies whose power over us was unbounded. Today, thanks to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, that is changing.
But opponents of reform are still trying to frame the debate as one about our “freedom” when it’s really about our right to secure, affordable health care. The line from Republicans is that reform will cost us too much. But over the next two decades, health reform will reduce the deficit by over $1 trillion. Before reform, insurance companies could refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions like breast cancer or diabetes. Small businesses were losing hope of ever affording health care for employees. Women were charged 50 percent more than men for the same coverage. And families were going bankrupt trying to cover costly premiums. Since President Obama signed landmark health care reform in 2010, New Hampshire families have experienced first-hand how it is helping them save money and live healthier lives.
Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could cap or cancel a patient’s coverage, putting his or her life at risk. In New Hampshire, an estimated 545,000 Granite Staters used to have caps on their care. Today, thanks to health reform, insurance companies can no longer cut off patients when they need their coverage most.
But health reform does more than just force insurance companies to play by the rules. It gives thousands of us access to preventative care. With the Affordable Care Act, women can get free preventive care such as prenatal screenings, and soon well-woman visits, cervical cancer screenings and contraception will also be available without a co-pay or deductible. Nearly all of the 220,000 Medicare beneficiaries in New Hampshire can now receive certain preventive services without a co-pay. These reforms save us money and are critical since too many people skip preventative care because of the costs and end up needing much more expensive care later. Who pays then? We all do, in higher premiums.
The Affordable Care Act also protects the next generation. An estimated 69,000 New Hampshire children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health insurance, and 8,300 young adults in the Granite State can now stay on their parent’s health care plan until age 26.
Before the Affordable Care Act, the cost of health insurance was skyrocketing. Health insurance for one family was projected to be $30,083 per year by 2019. The Affordable Care Act will help curb rapidly rising costs by providing preventive care, eliminating waste and abuses, and forcing insurance companies to publicly justify excessive rate hikes. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 13,000 New Hampshire seniors are saving an average of $620 each on their prescription drugs.
Mitt Romney, whose landmark legislation in Massachusetts served as a model for national health reform, has pledged to repeal the law, returning us to the days when insurance companies had free reign. Under Romney, insurance companies would be able to refuse to cover people with preexisting conditions and increase rates with no accountability.
Thanks to President Obama’s health reforms, Medicare is stronger for seniors. Children won’t lose their coverage just because they were born with pre-existing conditions like asthma, and American’s skyrocketing health care costs are finally coming under control. Republican attempts to demonize the Affordable Care Act are nothing more than scare tactics to distract from the fact that President Obama’s landmark health care reform law is saving lives and saving money here in the Granite State. Those are the facts.
Paul Hodes, of Concord, is a former U.S. Congressman serving New Hampshire's Second District from 2007-2011.