For the first time in history, we have passed a comprehensive health care reform bill that will ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care, while having the added benefit of significantly reducing long-term health care costs. When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Affordable Care Act") is fully implemented, we will leave behind a U.S. health care system that spends more per capita than any nation on earth, yet is ranked dead last among industrial nations for quality, access and efficiency. Congress was so confident in the reforms it passed that it mandated that Members of Congress and our staff will obtain health insurance through the exchange (national group buying pool) so that Members of Congress will have the same health care choices as every American purchasing health insurance in the exchange.
And health reform has provided added stability to Medicare and Social Security, with an August 2010 report by the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees, showing that the Affordable Care Act has extended the life of the Medicare trust fund by an additional twelve years.
During a period in our nation's history when we need fiscal responsibility the most, this historic legislation, the Affordable Care Act, will reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years, with $1.2 trillion in additional deficit reduction in the following 10 years.
Comprehensive health care reform will bring vital improvements to millions of working American families, including many in South Florida. For the 147,000 working families and 22,300 small businesses in Florida District 20, many who are struggling with skyrocketing premiums, this bill offers premium tax cuts and cost-sharing assistance, representing the largest tax cut for health care in history. For the 135,000 people in my district who are currently uninsured, this legislation opens the market to provide choice at affordable prices. The Affordable Care Act also enacts game changing insurance reforms, such as prohibiting insurance companies from reducing or refusing coverage because of pre-existing conditions; prohibiting the egregious practice of gender rating, or charging women more for care just because we are women; mandates that regular checkups and preventive care such as mammograms or colonoscopies be covered without co-pays; ends annual and lifetime caps on the coverage patients receive; and extends coverage for children on their parents' plans until age 26. The Affordable Care Act will finally bring health care security and stability to all Americans, while bringing down costs to our families, businesses, and government.
The Affordable Care Act takes immediate action against the exorbitant pricing of prescription drugs through closing the Medicare Part D "donut hole." Too many of the 102,000 seniors in the 20th Congressional District hit this coverage gap, an inexplicable burden for those with many medications and a limited income. Thanks to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, seniors will no longer have to choose between buying medications and putting food on the table. Over the past several months, seniors who hit the donut hole have received checks for $250 to help pay for medication this year. Over the next several years, the donut hole will be closed completely, as drug companies slash prices on medications and offer discounts on both brand name and generic drugs. Next year, seniors hitting the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the donut hole. By 2019, the Medicare Part D donut hole will be no more than a bad memory.