2011: Year That Was in Health Reform: Has Any of This Happened to You This Year?

ObamaCareSavesLivesYesterday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius published a piece highlighting the impacts of health reform in 2011. Among the results she highlights are 2.5 million additional young adults who now have health care thanks to the Affordable Care Act, improved benefits under Medicare include free preventive services, regulations on insurance companies including requiring them to spend 80-85% of your premiums on health care, putting more doctors in our communities, improving patient safety, and fighting fraud.

Among the things she didn't mention were the end of lifetime benefit caps and moving towards eliminating annual benefit caps, the end of insurance industry practice to drop you when you get sick, outlawing of pre-exisiting condition discrimination against children, and a 50% discount for seniors on brand name prescription drugs. And big effing deal was the federally funded high-risk pools that allows people with pre-existing conditions to get insurance until the exchanges open in 2014 and all pre-existing condition discrimination is outlawed. While these other programs I mentioned went into effect in 2010, they continue to act as a lifesaver for countless Americans.

As the year turns, I think it makes sense to look at the human stories that confirm that those of us who kept the faith and fought to get health reform through and support our president did the right thing. Just a few samplers of how the ACA is literally saving lives:

The Affordable Care Act: 3-year old Gwendolyn's story

Sen. Tom Harkin tells the story of an Iowa small business helped by ObamaCare.
MIKE’S STORY: Since, 2005, Mike has owned and operated a retail clothing and screen-printing shop in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Over the last four years, Mike’s business has grown from one employee to more than twenty and from $60,000 in annual sales to more than $2 million in projected annual sales this year.

BEFORE HEALTH REFORM: Like most small business owners, Mike wants to do right by his employees. Each employee of RAYGUN has a personal health insurance policy, paid for by the company. But the cost of providing health insurance was rising dramatically every year – cutting into his profits, and his employees’ take-home pay. Mike estimates that health insurance costs equal about 18 percent of after tax wages.

WHAT THE NEW LAW MEANS TO MIKE: The new law gives Iowa small businesses new resources to help meet these rising costs. Many small businesses are already eligible for tax credits that cover up to 35 percent of insurance costs for their employees. For Mike, this means he will be able to invest more in his business and in his employees. Overall, the new law provides $40 billion in tax credits (from 2010 to 2019) to up to 4 million small businesses nationwide to help offset the costs of purchasing coverage for their employees and to make premiums more affordable.
I know there are members of the TPV family who have been directly affected by the ACA - whether it's someone themselves, someone's daughter who's been able get treatment, or whether it was the story I told you this September of a young woman who was helped through the Pre-existing condition insurance program, who is now recovering fast from her procedure. We all heard the story of Spike Dolomite Ward, who apologized to the president for letting the media misinform her.

A community clinic in California delivers the message on how important the ACA is on its anniversary:

There is no way we can measure the impact of the Affordable Care Act in simple dollars and cents. Every bit of it was designed to make someone's life better somewhere.

Has any of it happened to you? Are you a young American who now has health insurance because of the ACA? Are you a parent who can now keep your child on your plan until they turn 26? Are you the person for whom they can no longer drop you or cut off your coverage because you reached a "lifetime" limit? Do you now have insurance thanks to the Pre-existing condition insurance plan? Are you on Medicare and have a discount on your prescription drugs and free preventive care? Does your employer now enjoy a 35% tax break to provide health insurance for you and your colleagues?

Better yet, who among us doesn't at least know someone who's benefited in one or more of the numerous ways from the ACA?

2011 has been a year of trial, of right wing overreach, and the rising up of ordinary people here to defeat the agenda of the far Right and overseas demanding their rights of democracy. 2011 is a year in which we finally relegated Don't Ask, Don't Tell to the history books, and the year in which our soldiers from Iraq came home. It's been a year of finally seeing the end of Osama bin Laden.

But perhaps nothing that has happened in 2011 in public policy that has affected and touched the lives of countless ordinary Americans more than the Affordable Care Act. 2011 has been a year of ObamaCares. Viva ObamaCare!

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CI: Towards 2012

President Obama's pivot: Narrative "Journalism" at The Nation