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USA Today - Happy Birthday ObamaCare!

Op-Ed

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

In it's third year, the Affordable Care Act will give Americans access to the health insurance they need.

A year ago, the Affordable Care Act's outlook appeared uncertain, with the Supreme Court decision on the law's legality and a contentious election fight over its merits still on the horizon. Today, with both of those events unfolding in favor of the landmark law, ObamaCare continues to take effect, having already achieved so much, yet with so much more to come later this year.

In the three years since it passed Congress, the health law has helped dramatically slow the growth in premium increases by requiring insurers to justify large rate hikes and spend at least 80% of premiums on health care.

Insurance companies can no longer drop patients when they get sick and Americans no longer face lifetime caps on care. Children with preexisting conditions cannot be denied coverage and more young adults can obtain insurance through their parents' plans. And that's not to mention the billions of dollars seniors have saved on prescription drugs or the health benefits they have experienced through free preventive services such as checkups or cancer screenings.

This year we'll go even further, with insurance marketplaces opening nationwide for Americans to purchase the kind of insurance that in many cases was previously unavailable. Starting Oct. 1, tens of millions of Americans will be able to buy private health insurance through these marketplaces -- administered at the state and national level -- or get health coverage through state Medicaid programs.

In the new marketplaces, families and individuals can choose the benefit plan that fits their needs and budget. The offerings will be more robust, with a minimum set of essential health benefits, free preventive services and limits on out-of-pocket spending.

Where once insurers could deny coverage for any number of reasons, including because of preexisting conditions, they will now be required to sell insurance to everyone. Options will be more transparent than ever and a simplified price structure will help consumers easily make decisions. What's more, many will be eligible for new subsidies to help keep the plans affordable.

Though these reforms will make insurance more accessible, the marketplace's success hinges on Americans having the tools they need to participate.

It starts with getting the right information early. Americans can find the best information about their own state's marketplace by visiting healthcare.gov, where they can sign up for text or email updates throughout the year. They can find out if their family or small business is eligible for tax credits to lower their monthly health plan premiums.

Through health reform, we have ensured that health coverage is available for all Americans. Consumers can now count on their health insurance to be there when they get sick, to cover the costs that were promised and prevent preexisting conditions from leading to a lifetime of health insecurity. This peace of mind for individuals, families and businesses will help our economy grow stronger and help lift a thriving middle class.

Sander Levin, D-Mich., is the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., is the ranking member on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.


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