Every American should have quality, affordable health insurance. But America's health-care system has been broken for decades. At the beginning of 2010, 46 million Americans were without health-insurance coverage, including nearly three million children here in New York State. Aside from the moral obligation that the United States -- the richest country on Earth -- owes to its citizens' well-being, those of us fortunate enough to have insurance were paying the price: In 2009, the average American family paid $1,100 more on their health-care insurance premiums to cover the care provided to the tens of millions of Americans who were without coverage.
Many uninsured Americans lack coverage due to pre-existing conditions or merely because they got sick. For years, health-insurance companies routinely denied coverage to people with diabetes, asthma or other common, treatable conditions. Those Americans fortunate enough to be healthy when they first purchased their coverage often discovered that their insurance companies dropped their policies when they developed the very types of illnesses that they had purchased insurance to cover them for in the first place.
After a century of attempts to improve American's health-care system, change has finally come: Health-insurance reform is now the law of the land, despite all of the misinformation about health-care reform. (There are no "death panels," and the government is not taking over the health-care system.)
For the first time in our country's history, health-care is a right, not a privilege. Under the legislation passed by the Democratic Congress and signed by President Obama, every American will have access to quality, affordable health-insurance provided by private insurance companies. Health-insurance companies will no longer be permitted to deny policies based on pre-existing conditions, or drop coverage once a customer becomes sick. Medicare beneficiaries will receive increased coverage, and the dreaded "donut hole" will be closed. And small businesses that provide insurance to their employees are eligible for significant tax credits to offset the costs of their employees' insurance premiums.
I could not be more proud of our country -- and our President -- for finally realizing the changes to our health-care system that Teddy Roosevelt first envisioned 100 years ago. I encourage you to read more about how you will benefit from health-care reform.