Marguerite Salazar: Health care law making a difference

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All Americans deserve security in the health care system. Through the Affordable Care Act, we will have the security of knowing that we don’t have to worry about losing coverage if we are laid off or change jobs. And insurance companies now have to cover preventive care, including mammograms and other cancer screenings. The new law also makes a significant investment in state- and community-based efforts that promote public health, prevent disease and protect against public health emergencies. 

The new health care law forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy because of an annual or lifetime limit or, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition. 

The Affordable Care Act saves money for Coloradans. Before, insurance companies spent as much as 40 cents of every premium dollar on overhead, marketing and CEO salaries. Today, we have the new 80/20 rule: Insurance companies must spend at least 80 cents of your premium dollar on your health care or improvements to care, or you get money back. Because of the Affordable Care Act’s 80/20 rule, rebates will average $227 for the 121,000 Colorado families covered by a policy. Beginning this year, insurers must notify customers how much of their premiums have been spent on medical care and quality improvement.

There are benefits for small-business owners. Small businesses used to pay an average of 18 percent more for health insurance than large companies. With the new health care act, small businesses can get tax credits to help pay for coverage for their employees.

The act requires insurers to allow young adults to remain on their parents’ family plans until their 26th birthdays, even if they move away from home or graduate from school. This policy took effect Sept. 23, 2010. Because of the health care law, about 50,000 more young adults in Colorado have health insurance today.

Not only does the health care law assist young adults, it puts women and their doctors in charge of health care decisions. Women deserve to have control over their health care, and no one — including the government — should be able to dictate those decisions to women. The Affordable Care Act makes preventive care like mammograms, contraception and diabetes screenings available for free.

The new law is holding insurance companies accountable. Before, insurance companies could raise your premiums by double digits without justification. In every state, and for the first time under federal law, insurance companies are required to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10 percent or more. Colorado has received $5 million under the new law to help fight unreasonable premium increases.

Since the law was enacted, Colorado residents with Medicare have saved $40,079,421 on their prescription drugs. In the first five months of 2012, 7,806 people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. This discount has resulted in an average savings of $666 per person and a total savings of $5,202,213 in Colorado. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole.

In 2011, 382,143 people with Medicare in Colorado received free preventive services — such as mammograms and colonoscopies — or a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. And in the first six months of 2012, 158,067 people with Medicare received free preventive services.

There are so many benefits to the new health care law that Coloradans can’t afford not to take advantage of these programs. I am excited to be part of these changes that foster secure, affordable coverage for millions of Americans. By eliminating cost-sharing requirements for prevention, the act puts Americans in control of their health care decisions.

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