Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) issued the following statement on the one-year anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Engel was a strong supporter of the historic reform, and is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health.
"One year has passed and the "Chicken Little' cries from Republicans have been exposed----the sky has not fallen and the false arguments made at the time are not the case. Lies about "death panels' have been proven false, the government has not taken over the health care industry and the economy has not been destroyed. They used fear and lies to frighten Americans in the lead up to passage, and in the months since, a tactic that was shameful at the time and remains so to this day.
"Americans are already reaping the benefits of the law, with most of the provisions not even in effect yet. They have more freedom over their health care, as insurance companies now cannot deny care to people with pre-existing conditions, or cap coverage for those who need it. Americans are free from worrying about losing their insurance due to clerical errors, or being dropped should they lose or change jobs. It is now illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Young adults can stay on their parents' plans, and over 30 million Americans are on the path towards access to health care that they did not have before this law was passed.
"Despite all of this early success, the new Republican majority has spent their first months in power voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If they had their way, jobs would never be created, insurance companies would regain the power to arbitrarily deny coverage to sick children, community health centers would be defunded, and people would have fewer options to prevent disease rather than having to treat deadly illnesses after they are contracted.
"This law makes health care affordable for the middle class and halted the steady rise in costs from health care that has lead to much of our budgetary woes over the years. For all of their talk of the sky falling, Republicans have repeatedly failed to provide any alternative ideas that would come remotely close to accomplishing what the Affordable Care Act does. They had six years of control of the House, Senate and White House and provided no leadership on this issue. All they have provided are false platitudes and alarmist sound bites.
"I was proud to vote for this historic law, and history will show it will improve access to health care. I am willing to work with the Republican majority to identify ways where we can improve this bill----as done with virtually every major piece of legislation in our history----if they are willing to set aside their rhetoric and work with us. I am hopeful that day will come and they can stop telling tall tales and begin working together for the American people."
"In New York, the benefits have been plentiful:
* 2.8 million New Yorkers with Medicare (44 million nationwide) can now receive free preventative services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and free annual wellness visits to their doctors.
* More than 250,000 New Yorkers received $250 tax free rebates after hitting the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole"----a loophole that will be closed completely thanks to this law.
* Over 340,000 small businesses in New York (4 million nationwide) will benefit from the $40 billion in tax credits to offset the cost of purchasing affordable coverage for their employees.
* New York has received $156 million in grants to help provide improved care in such ways as $30 million to support capital development in community health centers, $34 million for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, $48 million in Therapeutic Discovery Project Program Tax Credits and Grants, and many others.
* An estimated 74,600 young adults in New York can have coverage thanks to the law's provisions allowing them to remain on their parents' plan.
* An estimated 1.1 million children with pre-existing conditions in New York will now be protected from losing their coverage. In 2014, insurers will be banned from discriminating against such children.
* Approximately 10.6 million New Yorkers will be protected from lifetime limits on health benefits. The law currently restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014.
* Insurance companies used mistakes on applications to drop coverage, a practice now banned. This protects 814,000 New York residents who buy coverage on the individual market.
* Insurance companies must spend at least 80% of premium dollars on health care and quality improvements rather than on overhead, executive salaries or marketing. This means the 10.6 million New Yorkers with private insurance receive greater value.
* Since the law was signed, the economy has created nearly 1.4 million private sector jobs, and has grown at an average annual rate of 2.7%. Experts predict the Affordable Care Act will create between 250,000-400,000 jobs each year.
"Today is a day for all Americans to realize this legislation is a major step towards ensuring health care is available for all, and we are already seeing incremental improvements before the law is fully implemented in 2014."