By Kathleen Sebelius
Three years ago, the Affordable Care Act ushered in a new day for health care.
Since then, more than 6.3 million seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare have saved more than $6.1 billion dollars on prescription drugs. Nearly 71 million Americans got expanded access to preventive service at no charge through their private insurance plans, and 47 million women now have guaranteed access to additional preventive services without cost sharing. More than 3.1 million young adults who were uninsured were able to gain coverage by being able to stay on their parents' insurance policies until they turned 26. And parents no longer have to worry about insurers denying coverage to their children because of a pre-existing condition.
Americans are getting more value for their health care dollars due to the health care law. Affordable Care Act initiatives are promoting coordinated care; paying for quality, not quantity; and dramatically reducing fraud and waste, contributing to the slowest growth in national health spending in 50 years.
Consumers also saved $2 billion in 2012, because of programs to review premium rates and to require insurers to provide rebates if they do not spend at least 80% of premiums on care, rather than overhead, such as executive pay and marketing. And the law's initiatives have extended the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by eight years.
But that's only the beginning. Thanks to the health care law, starting October 1, 2013, qualified individuals will have access to quality health insurance through the new Health Insurance Marketplace.
With the Marketplace, there'll be a whole new way to find health insurance that fits consumers' needs and budgets, with less hassle. Individuals, families, and small business owners in every state and the District of Columbia will be able to shop in the Marketplace for private insurance coverage that begins in January 2014.
For the first time, you'll be able to go to one place to learn about health insurance; get accurate information on different plans; and make apples-to-apples comparisons of private insurance plans--including costs and benefits. You'll get a clear picture of what you're paying and what you're getting before you make a choice. You'll also be able to learn, with a single application, if you qualify for a free or low-cost plan, or a new kind of tax credit that lowers your monthly premiums right away.
Because the Affordable Care Act outlaws discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing or chronic condition, as of January 1, 2014, no one can be turned away by plans in the Marketplace or charged more because they're in poorer health--or just because they're a woman. At last, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition.
And every health insurance plan in the Marketplace will cover a standard set of essential health benefits that includes, among other benefits, hospital stays, prescription drug coverage, preventive services, oral and vision care for kids.
Open enrollment begins October 1, 2013. Get ready now for the Marketplace by signing up for e-mails and text messages for updates and information at https://signup.healthcare.gov/
In June, the site will be unveiling the new Marketplace. You'll be able to learn everything you need to know about the Marketplace, including how it works, the benefits of health insurance, how to choose a plan based on your needs and lifestyle, and more. Then in the fall, you can use this site to enroll in a plan from home, or from any place you can access the Web.
Every American needs and deserves quality health insurance. The Marketplace will help ensure that Americans will have access to quality, affordable health insurance.
Learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace at www.healthcare.gov/marketplace.