Two years ago this week the most sweeping health care reform in our nation’s history was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Major portions of the law are yet to take effect, but it’s still worth stepping back for a minute and taking a look at who in Maine has already started to benefit from this historic reform.
Ninety-one thousand women. Let’s start with that figure. That’s how many women in our state have access to preventive services such as mammograms and pap smears thanks to health care reform. And starting this August, they will also get no-cost coverage for things such as contraception and domestic violence screening.
Seven thousand young adults. One of the most popular provisions of the new law is the one that allows parents to keep their children on their policies until age 26. As anyone who has raised kids through the college years knows, they can use all the help they can get as they head off into the work world. As parents, we want to make sure they have access to the health care they need and, thanks to the health care reform law, parents can do that through their own insurance coverage.
Twelve thousand seniors. The health care reform law will eventually close the dreaded “doughnut hole” for seniors, but already it has made it easier for them to afford prescription drugs. Over 12,000 seniors in Maine received a $250 rebate to help cover their prescription drugs when they hit the doughnut hole in 2010. And about the same number got a 50 percent discount on brand name prescriptions last year. With the average discount ringing in at over $500, that adds up to some significant savings for Maine seniors.
Four-hundred and thirty thousand men, women and children. These Mainers no longer have to worry that their insurance coverage may run out if they face a long-term illness such as cancer. The health care reform law bans lifetime limits on coverage and starting in 2014 bans annual limits as well. Insurance is supposed to protect us from worst-case scenarios, not run out just when we need it the most.
Every single Maine resident. No longer will insurance companies be able to cancel our policies when we get sick. It’s sad that it took a new law to end this ruthless practice, but it did.
Let me be clear — this law tackles an enormously complex system and there are bound to be parts of it that will need some more work. And many, myself included, felt that in some ways the law didn’t go far enough.
But the truth is that real benefits of health care reform are already starting to be felt by individuals across Maine and around the country. Unfortunately, the same opponents of health care reform who fought the law in the first place are now trying to repeal it in Congress. Just this week the House passed one of several bills that would roll back some of the most important aspects of reform.
If it were up to Republicans in Congress, the insurance companies would be allowed to keep classifying being a woman as a pre-existing condition. They would put decisions about your health care back in the hands of insurance company CEOs. And they would repeal coverage for preventive medicine that will help keep all of us healthier and lower costs for everyone in the years to come.
Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, is a member of Congress representing Maine’s 1st District.