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Affordable Care Act Turns 3

Affordable Care Act

President Barack Obama fist-bumps a medical professional in the Green Room of the White House, prior to the start of a health caThis March, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) celebrates the third anniversary of the health care law that continues to provide critical coverage to millions of Americans.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) gives Americans more security by ensuring that insurance companies play by the rules. The legislation prohibits them from dropping coverage when people get sick, billing their beneficiaries into bankruptcy and soon, discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions.

In three short years, millions of Americans have gained access to more affordable health coverage and care. Already, the ACA has helped 3.1 million young people gain coverage under their parents’ plans and 71 million Americans with private insurance receive preventive services like cancer screenings and flu shots without paying a dollar out of pocket. As President Barack Obama said, “Americans who like the coverage they have can keep it—and the law will give them a better value for that coverage by improving benefits and protections.”

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010.In October 2013, there will be a new way for individuals, families and small businesses to purchase health insurance: the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Marketplace is an online shopping site where consumers can confidently choose the right health insurance plan for them. Whether you’re uninsured or just want to explore the available options, the Marketplace offers more choice, more transparency, and more control over your health insurance coverage.

A key feature of the Marketplace is the ability for shoppers to compare various plans side by side on the basis of price, benefits and premiums. All of the information is written in clear language, and applicants can explore the site at their own pace.  No matter where you live, you will be able to buy insurance from qualified private health plans that cover a comprehensive set of benefits, including doctor visits, preventive care, and prescriptions. At the Marketplace, information about Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and a new kind of advance tax credit that can be used right away to lower monthly health plan premiums is available and easy to understand. Through just one simple application, you, your family or your small business can arrive at the right qualified health insurance plan for you.

Beginning next January, discrimination against people with pre-existing health conditions will become illegal under the ACA.  Were you aware that simply being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition? Currently, 129 million Americans with health conditions ranging from high blood pressure to cancer live in fear of seeing their rates skyrocket or getting locked out of the market. In January 2014, everyone will be granted peace of mind. Millions more Americans will have access to quality, affordable health care, even when they are retiring, between jobs or taking the risk to start their own business.

During the last three years, the ACA has provided additional security to millions of Americans and placed our health care system on a trajectory that will reduce the burden of rising costs on families, businesses, and government. The reduction of costs in Medicare, Medicaid, and the private sector is a necessary change after years of unrelenting increases. Additionally, the law makes it possible for middle class Americans and people working their way into the middle class to receive the basic protection of affordable health coverage.

Although the ACA reforms have been successful thus far, we need to keep building on their progress to work towards giving Americans the health care system they deserve. In the meantime, you can learn more about how the Affordable Care Act is improving health care in your community and take your health into your own hands.

George L. Askew, M.D., serves as the first chief medical officer for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In this role he provides expert advice and consultation to the assistant secretary for children and families on the development of plans, programs, policies, and initiatives that address the health needs and strengths of vulnerable children and families.

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