By George Miller and Mark DeSaulnier
Emily was born with a congenital heart defect. When blood leaves her heart, her aortic valve does not open fully. As a result, with activity or exertion she feels breathless, weak, and she sometimes faints.
Now 23 and living in Pleasant Hill, she'll need regular monitoring and treatment by a cardiologist to stay healthy, for the rest of her life. Thanks to the new health care law, sometimes called Obamacare, she can never again be denied coverage for her disorder as a pre-existing condition.
Carol, from Richmond, is 62. She's had breast cancer twice. Earlier this month she was laid off from her accounting job at a Fortune 500 company, and once her severance benefits run out, she knows that even if she could find a company willing to insure her, she certainly wouldn't be able to afford it. But thanks to the new health care law, like many older Americans with rising health care costs, she'll be able to get insurance until she is eligible for Medicare when she turns 65.
Emily and Carol are just two examples of how the new health care law is going to help millions of Californians.
Here's how it works.
If you get insurance through your job or have Medicare, you don't need to do anything -- you can keep your insurance. However, now you will have new consumer protections against insurance company abuses that you did not have before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.
If you're uninsured or self-insured and paying too much for your premiums, help has finally arrived. Covered California, the new online marketplace that opens Tuesday, provides a very simple way to shop for private health insurance among affordable brand-named choices, explained in easy-to-understand language.
This is a modern marketplace to compare plans and purchase insurance from providers you already know. And in some cases, discounts, known as premium support, might be available.
In Contra Costa County, the online marketplace gives families options based on their circumstances. Consumers will either choose from one of five private insurers -- Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, Contra Costa Health Plan, Anthem, and Health Net -- or enroll in expanded Medi-Cal services.
Keep in mind, most families in Contra Costa County already have health insurance and need not participate in the Covered California marketplace. But for those who aren't covered, this law is crucial.
There are nearly 126,000 people in Contra Costa County who aren't insured, either because they can't get it at work, or they've been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, or because the premiums are so high they simply cannot afford it.
We have the opportunity -- not just statewide, but right here in the East Bay -- to lead the nation in closing the uninsured gap.
Even if you already have insurance, if you know an Emily or a Carol, then tell them about Covered California at www.CoveredCA.com. It's their chance to finally achieve peace of mind and security through quality, affordable health insurance.
Every family deserves a plan that covers essential health benefits, like hospital care, emergency care, and care for pregnant women, and a plan that won't bankrupt them just because of an illness or an accident.
Every family deserves health coverage even if the breadwinners lose their job or if they want to start a new business.
And every family deserves to know they won't be kicked off their insurance for a pre-existing condition or be subjected to lifetime caps that take away their benefits when they're needed most.
With Covered California, every family is assured that peace of mind. And that's good news for Emily and Carol, and everyone else in California.
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, is a member of the U.S. House of Representative and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is a member of the California Senate.