Praising the benefits to Marylanders of health care reform, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, released the following statement to mark the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.
"Just one year ago today, Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act, comprehensive legislation that will lead to coverage for 32 million more Americans, lower health care costs, strengthen Medicare, and reduce our deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next two decades.
"I congratulate Governor O'Malley for the extraordinary job he has done in positioning Maryland at the forefront of health reform implementation efforts across America. Today's event highlights our state's Consumer Assistance program, funded by a $642,000 grant from the new law, which will help Marylanders determine the best health insurance options for them.
"The new health care reform law is a winner for American families, seniors, and businesses. In just the first year, thousands of Maryland's young adults have become eligible to receive health insurance through their parents' policies; millions of Americans are benefitting from stronger consumer protections, including guaranteed access to emergency medical services and an end to pre-existing condition exclusions for children and lifetime limits on health benefits, In addition, insurance companies have to change their ways to ensure that premiums are spent on medical care rather than on exorbitant bonuses for insurance company executives.
"Our seniors are receiving improved coverage and additional benefits, including free preventive screenings and annual checkups. They also are getting help with high prescription drug costs as the Medicare prescription drug gap or so-called "donut hole" is gradually closed by 2020. Last year, nearly 4 million seniors, including 54,000 Marylanders, received $250 checks to help pay for medicines when they fell into the coverage gap. Our seniors also have increased confidence in the promise of Medicare, because the program's solvency has been extended by 12 years as a result of the new law.
"America's small businesses also are benefitting with nearly 80,000 Maryland small businesses now eligible for tax credits of up to 35% to help them provide health insurance to their employees. Soon they will be eligible to participate in a new, transparent marketplace where they can purchase more affordable coverage. Earlier this year, Maryland received $6 million to develop an "Early Innovator" exchange model.
"The new law will also improve America's health care system overall, laying a stronger foundation for prevention and wellness, investing $11 billion in community health centers to increase access to primary care in underserved areas; establishing a new Center for Innovation, where the best ideas for improving quality and lowering costs can be tested in demonstration projects; and creating six new Offices of Minority Health in HHS agencies to focus on reducing the racial and ethnic disparities that increase morbidity and mortality and cost our nation billions of dollars in excess health care costs.
"As we move into the second year of health reforms, I am proud to celebrate the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act with Team Maryland, and look forward to further implementation of the new law."