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Happy Anniversary to the Affordable Care Act

Contributor(s): PHS Editorial Staff

 

Today marks the six-year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 20 million more Americans, and 600,000 Ohioans, have health care coverage — many for the first time. This landmark legislation is an important step in ensuring that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care coverage. While this law is already benefiting Ohioans, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will work with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue to strengthen and improve it.

Since 2010, more than six million young adults nationwide have been able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26 while they finish school or look for their first job. The Affordable Care Act also made sure no child or adult could be turned away for a so-called pre-existing condition, like asthma or diabestes. Insurers will also be prohibited from charging higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions or medical history. 

Seniors are also seeing the Affordable Care Act’s benefits in their Medicare plan. Ohio’s seniors are saving money on prescription drugs because the Affordable Care Act is working to close the Medicare Part D coverage gap known as the “donut hole” — which previously left some seniors paying high sums out-of-pocket for needed prescription drugs. By closing this donut hole, more than 10 million seniors and people with disabilities nationwide have saved more than $20 billion on prescription drug costs. In 2015 alone, more than 237,000 Ohio seniors saved more than $258 million — that’s an average of $1,090 in savings per person just last year. Seniors also have free access to an annual wellness check-up and life-saving cancer screenings. 

Six years later, our health care system is working more to the benefit of the insured — not for the benefit of insurance companies’ bottom lines. After years of unchecked premium hikes, health reform is forcing insurance companies to justify price hikes. If an insurance company increases premiums more than 10 percent, the company must justify its action. State insurance departments — like the Ohio Department of Insurance — ultimately determine whether or not to approve an insurer’s proposed premium rate. A 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated that 6.5 million consumers benefited from reduced premiums as a result of rate reviews.

The Affordable Care Act is also ensuring that more of the money paid by both employees and employers in health care premiums is going toward actual care — not bonuses for insurance executives or administrative costs. Under the Affordable Care Act’s new medical loss ratio (MLR) rules that began in 2011, health insurance plans sold to individuals and small groups are required to spend 80 percent of premiums on actual medical care. For large group plans, at least 85 percent of premiums must be spent on medical care. If an insurance company does not spend at least 80 or 85 percent on medical care, they must provide a rebate to their consumers. Furthermore, by banning insurance companies from imposing annual and lifetime limits — which is especially burdensome for families with children who have chronic diseases or individuals with cancer — millions of Americans are no longer worried that their out-of-pocket medical costs will mean financial ruin. 

Still, more must be done to bring down costs. 

Sen. Brown will continue to support the improvements in our health care system made by the Affordable Care Act and work to ensure that no American is one medical bill away from bankruptcy.