The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has changed the lives of millions of Americans and thousands of Marylanders. That's because many of its provisions are now taking effect and providing important financial savings for individuals and families.
As I travel around Maryland, I hear from grateful constituents who have already benefited from many of the provisions in the law that are now in effect. More and more Marylanders are relieved that:
Young adult children from ages 19-25 can remain on their parents' policies;
Health insurance companies can no longer impose a lifetime cap on coverage. (Annual caps will be eliminated in 2014.);
Insurance companies are prohibited from dropping enrollees when they become ill, a practice known as rescission;
The Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the "donut hole" is shrinking and will be fully eliminated by 2020;
Insurance companies can no longer charge women higher premiums than men, and;
Health insurance plans will provide free preventive, wellness benefits for women.
This summer, I am also starting to hear from Marylanders who are extremely pleased by a new provision that has just gone into effect. Many Americans do not realize that starting on June 1, 2012, the ACA holds health insurance companies accountable to consumers by ensuring that Americans are reimbursed if health insurance companies don't meet "a fair standard of value."
That "fair standard of value" provision limits how much of your premium dollar your insurer can spend on things other than providing health care. If your insurance company spends less that 80 percent of the premium you pay for coverage on health care benefits, it must provide a rebate to you on the portion of your premium that exceeds the limit.
Nationwide, more than 12 million Americans will benefit from $1.1 billion in rebates from insurance companies because of the ACA's 80/20 Rule. In Maryland, more than 140,000 Marylanders will benefit from approximately $27.5 million in rebates, with the average rebate per family totaling $340.
This was good news to Teresa Moore of Baltimore County who recently e-mailed me with the news that she had just received two rebate checks -- one for $139 from her current health insurer and the other for $380 from her previous health insurer -- because both insurers had failed to use 80 percent of her premium to cover health care costs. She was thrilled with the rebates and wrote that this was "wonderful" news.
I agree -- this was indeed wonderful news and many more Marylanders will be receiving rebates by August 1 because their health insurance companies used too much of their premium dollars for marketing, bonuses, salaries or other non health-related costs.
The ACA provides Americans with peace of mind and comfort that in times of illness or injury they will have access to affordable health care. My deepest hope is that all Marylanders -- and Americans -- become knowledgeable and take advantage of the new benefits and protections that are provided in the Affordable Care Act.