Why We Fight: 2.5 Million Young Adults Have Health Care Thanks to ObamaCare

Today, data released from the National Center for Health Statistics shows something astonishing, but also something that shouldn't come as a surprise to any of us who have fought to get health reform done: between September 23, 2010 and June 2011, 2.5 million addition young adults have gained health insurance coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act isn't fully implemented yet, but the parts of it that are now in effect are helping real people. One such coverage related provision that's been in effect since September 23, 2010 is the ability of parents to keep or enroll their young adult children, up to the age of 26, into their health plans. Between then and June of this year (the time the latest data is available), the coverage rate  for young adults increased a by 9 percentage points, from 64% to 73%.

In their press release, the HHS tells the story of one such young woman:
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 2.5 million more young adults don’t have to live with the fear and uncertainty of going without health insurance,” said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Moms and dads around the country can breathe a little easier knowing their children are covered.”

Families around the country are benefitting from this part of the law, including families like the Houghs, whose daughter Natalie was diagnosed with a rare heart condition after suffering a cardiac arrest at school. Her condition requires a lifetime of medication and care. There was a day when this diagnosis would mean insurance companies would either not cover Natalie or would offer her unaffordable plans. It would mean that Natalie and her family would have to keep paying, or face the unimaginable alternative.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Natalie can stay on her family’s plan and has started college, and thanks to the law, by the time she turns 26, it will be illegal for a plan to deny coverage to anyone, regardless of their health and Natalie will have access to quality, affordable care.
This is why we fight. This is why we compromise. This is why refuse to sacrifice progress in order to pursue elusive perfection. We fight to get things done because of Natalie and millions of young people like her. We fight for people like Natalie's parents and millions of other families just like them. We fight to make progress because this is what progress looks like. This is why we believe that the true measure of public policy is not the checkmarks a given bill is able to tick off on a given list of ideological demands but the lives it is able to affect in a positive way. There are at least 2.5 million families like Natalie's out there whose lives were touched, changed, and maybe even some of them saved by we lovingly call "ObamaCare."

Just think about this for a moment. Had the efforts from the wingnut Right and the wingnut Left succeeded in killing health reform - and make no mistake, neither of those sides had any legislatively viable alternative - there would be at least 2.5 million more young adults today without health insurance. Not only that, people like Spike Dolomite Ward would never be able to get the help they need to afford insurance through the federal high risk pools. Children could still be denied coverage because they were born with a medical condition. Insurance companies would still be able to drop you when you got sick. They would be able to spend anything they want of your premium dollars on lobbying, sales, and advertising rather than providing the care you pay for. And they would still be able to arbitrarily cap your coverage level. Seniors on a fixed income would be paying a total of $1.5 billion more in prescription drug costs. There would be no preventive care without the need for a copay.

All of those things are more are already in effect under the Affordable Care Act, and the best part of it is yet to come. In 2014, there will be no more pre-existing condition discrimination for anyone, individuals and small businesses would be able to pool our bargaining power in the exchanges, and the affordability tax credits will provide the largest middle class and working class tax cut for health care in history. In 2014, everyone, including childless adults up to 133% of poverty will be able to get Medicaid, in the largest expansion of that public program since its inception. That's 20 million additional Americans. By the time reform is fully implemented, Community Health Centers will have been massively expanded, with capacity double the number of the uninsured and provide a true competition for for-profit health care providers.

Had we sacrificed these reforms at the alter of some elusive ideological perfectionism, we would be putting millions of lives in jeopardy. Literally. This is why we fight. This is why President Obama fights. We fight not to win some talking points war. We fight to win the real battles real people fight in their real lives. We fight for people. President Obama fights for people. And our fight is bearing good results. Let's keep it up.

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