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Let Us Recommit to Defending the Gains of Health Care Reform


Location: Unknown

By Rep. Edolphus "Ed" Towns (NY-10)

Today marks the second anniversary of President Barack Obama's historic health care reform law. In just two short years, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has benefited significant numbers of residents in the 10th Congressional District and the nation as a whole. Yet critics of health care reform are attacking the ACA in the courts and through public discourse.

I will continue to defend the Affordable Care Act in Congress. On this second anniversary I am recommitting myself to ensuring that the gains we have made are not lost.

A new analysis that combines information from several sources, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services, quantifies the Act's effectiveness and should serve as valuable information for its critics.

For example, under a provision that went into effect in January 2011, Medicare beneficiaries who enter the Medicare Part D "donut hole" and lose coverage for their drug expenses are eligible for a 50 percent discount for prescription drugs. That provision has allowed 3,800 seniors in our district to save $2.4 million in prescription drug costs. That is an average savings of $640 per person.

Additionally, about 49,000 seniors in our district have taken advantage of free preventive care service under another provision of the ACA. These invaluable preventive care services include annual wellness visits, cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings, as well as cancer screenings at no out-of-pocket cost to our seniors.

In fact, preventive care is a key focus of health care reform. The ACA requires new private insurance plans to cover preventive care services without any co-pay, coinsurance, or deductible. According to the report, 100,000 of our district residents have benefitted from this change, including 25,000 children, 41,000 women, and 77,000 minorities who suffer disproportionately from disparities in health care services.

An estimated 5,900 young adults residing in our district now have health care coverage under a requirement that health insurers permit parents to retain coverage for their children until they reach age 26. Typically, the 18 to 25 year-old age group has the highest rate of being uninsured.

Constituents often call or visit my district offices to complain about unfair practices at the hands of their health insurance company. But with passage of the Affordable Care Act, many of the abuses have ended, such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions and imposing annual and lifetime limits on health coverage.

Many on the other side of the aisle warned that the ACA would harm small businesses. But I am pleased to report that nationwide about 228,000 businesses used the tax credits to small businesses provided under the Act, according to the IRS. In our district, an estimated 390 small businesses used the tax credits in 2010.

By 2014, virtually all of the important benefits of the Act will come into effect. When the law is fully implemented, 18,000 of residents in the district who now lack health insurance will receive coverage for the first time.

As we mark this anniversary and reap the benefits of bold changes to health care reform, GOP leaders are on a crusade to repeal the ACA. As a senior, active Member of the health subcommittee of Energy and Commerce, I have been on the front lines defending the Affordable Care Act, and the major benefits it has brought to our district. Rather than repealing this law, we should focus on working together to improve the lives of ordinary Americans rather than making political attacks on President Obama.

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