More than two years after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, Americans across the country have begun to see the positive changes from reforms to our health care system. I was proud to support this historic legislation and look forward to full implementation of the law and the benefits it will bring in the coming years.
Since enacted in 2010, Virginians have benefited from ACA reforms, including:
· Allowing nearly 63,000 young adults in Virginia to remain on their parent’s health insurance;
· Providing Medicare Part D recipients a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescriptions when they hit the donut hole;
· Protecting 438,000 Virginia children from being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition;
· 1.5 million Virginians with private insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing;
· Over 800,000 children have seen an end to lifetime dollar limits on health benefits. Previously, some cancer patients and those with chronic diseases were forced to forgo treatment – or move to another state – due to a cap on services by private insurers.
Health care reform’s positive impact continues to grow, and this month, an important change kicked in that will improve the quality of life for 47 million American women. Beginning August 1, insurance companies are required to cover additional preventive services for women without paying anything out-of-pocket at the doctor’s office. These 22 services include yearly checkups, support for breastfeeding equipment, cancer screenings, contraception, and domestic violence screening and counseling. This provision will be effective for existing policies at their first renewal date on or after August 1, 2012.
As Chairman of the Congressional Prevention Caucus, I understand just how important preventive care is for peoples’ long-term health and well-being. According to Planned Parenthood, each year, roughly 4,000 women die of cervical cancer. If detected early, this cancer has nearly a 100 percent five-year survival rate. Scientific research has also led to development of the HPV or human papillomavirus vaccine which can help prevent most cervical cancers.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly one in every four women. Once diagnosed, hypertension can be easily controlled through diet or prescription drugs. If left unchecked, chronic hypertension can shorten a lifespan by 10–20 years and contributes to type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and places individuals at high risk for stroke, heart attack, and renal failure. Now that yearly checkups are covered under the ACA, screening for hypertension should no longer be overlooked. Examples like these are why prevention is so important.
Further, expanding access to preventive services not only cuts down on out-of-pocket costs for women, it saves millions of dollars in health care spending in the long term. Chronic diseases – often preventable – are responsible for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year and account for 75 percent of the nation’s health spending. Diabetes is one such chronic, but preventable, disease which is on the rise. In 2007, nationwide spending for treatment soared above $115 billion and individual annual health care costs for a person with Diabetes topped $11,500. If diabetes is caught in the pre-diabetes stage through a blood glucose screening, making lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of developing the disease by 58 percent, saving billions each year.
Earlier this year, the New York Times covered a report finding that in many states, women still pay up to 50 percent more than men for the same health insurance coverage. Charging women exponentially more for health care than men is discriminatory. Further, cost inequities only exacerbate the many instances where women put the health care needs of their families before their own. Beginning in 2014, this practice of “gender rating” will be prohibited and insurance companies can no longer classify being a woman as a pre-existing condition.
The improvements already in place are just the beginning of the needed reforms ACA will enact in the months and years to come. While the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, it takes major, concrete steps towards making our health care system finally work for millions of Americans. I will continue fighting to protect and implement this important new law.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.