Last year’s healthcare reform law (the “Affordable Care Act” or “ACA”) was an achievement decades in the making. Vulnerable Americans had waited far too long for a change to our system that guaranteed access to quality, affordable care. The law isn’t perfect, but it will bring healthcare to over 30 million people who wouldn’t have it otherwise, improve quality and efficiency of care, and lower the budget deficit as well.
HOWEVER, House Republicans were succesful last night in voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act by a vote of 245 to 189. (This was a largely symbolic act since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there would not be be a repeal vote in the Senate.)
Republicans said that the ACA raises the deficit – this is not true. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office reported that that repealing the ACA will raise the deficit  by $230 billion over ten years. They have also called the ACA a “job-killing” bill – this is not true. Experts have shown that the bill will have little effect on employment . Repeal would mean shutting out the millions of people who couldn’t afford care without the new law. It will mean undoing reforms intended to hold insurance companies accountable.
The repeal vote is a perfect opportunity for healthcare advocates to speak out in support of the Affordable Care Act and the important protections it affords. All of our lawmakers need to hear that we want them to protect the reforms of last year.
Here are some of the protections, benefits, and improvements to our healthcare system that would be lost if the Affordable Care Act were repealed:
- Free preventative care: All new plans have to provide certain procedures like mammograms or colonoscopies without charging a co-pay, deductible or coinsurance.
- No more lifetime limits: Insurance companies are prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential services, like hospital stays.
- No denying coverage to children: Children under the age of 19 cannot be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
- Strengthening Medicare: Starting now, seniors will pay less for prescription drugs, and the “donut hole” will be closed entirely by 2020. Other provisions encourage improved care through innovation and efficiency in Medicare.
- Lowering premiums: The new law requires that 85% of premium dollars (80% for plans sold to small employers and individuals) be spent on health care services and health care quality improvements. 80% for plans sold to small
- Extended coverage for young adults: Young adults can now stay on their parent’s plan until the age of 26.
- Consumer protection: The law offers a way for consumers to appeal decisions to their insurance companies and an external review process.
- Funding for disease prevention: The funding for a $15 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund starts in 2010. It will invest in public health programs that have demonstrated success.
(The above provisions have already taken effect. To learn about the provisions that are on the way between now and 2014, visit NETWORK’s overview of the Affordable Care Act . Also, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/  for more information.)
Repeal advocates want to take away these vital protections! They want to send us back to a time when insurance companies could cap the amount of care they would pay for, drop people with pre-existing conditions, and kick young adults off their parent’s plans. They want to take us back to a time when millions went without necessary care because they couldn’t afford it. This is unacceptable. We worked hard to change this system, and we must not move backward.
Now is the time to tell Congress to reject future efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Remind them how proud you are of healthcare reform, and how vital it is that the new law be protected, funded, and fully implemented.
To read more about the healthcare reform law and a faith-based perspective on reform, visit Faithful Reform in Healthcare: http://www.faithfulreform.org/ .