Rick Palacio: Health care 1 year later | SteamboatToday.com

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Rick Palacio: Health care 1 year later

A year ago this week, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, granting us as individuals — not insurance companies — the freedom to control our health care choices. If Republicans in Congress had their way, they would repeal the law and take away these rights.

Achieving health care reform was a hard-fought battle, but it isn't over. And we have come too far to roll back progress and go back to the days when insurance companies were in charge.

Since health care reform was enacted, many patient rights and benefits have taken effect: insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions or take away individuals' health coverage when they need it most; all new health plans must offer free preventive care; young people can stay on their parents' insurance until age 26 while they look for a job or finish school; and senior citizens are receiving help to pay for their prescription drugs. In addition, insurance companies have to spend at least 80 percent of your premium dollars on health care and quality improvements instead of overhead, CEO bonuses or administrative expenses. Those provisions will save lives, save money and give Coloradans more freedom and peace of mind.

During the next three years, more protections will kick in. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions or drop coverage because of sickness. Each state will adopt a health insurance exchange to increase competition for insurance plans, so individuals and small businesses can comparison shop for the best value. If you own a business with fewer than 25 full-time employees, you may qualify for a small business tax credit to help offset the costs of coverage.

Despite the clear benefits of this law, Republicans continue to challenge health care reform in Congress and in the courts. Repealing it would add more than a trillion dollars to the national debt and put the lives of Coloradans back in the hands of the insurance industry.

It is critical that we continue to protect and improve upon the Affordable Care Act. I applaud President Obama and Democrats in Congress for their courageous leadership in making tough choices to improve the America's health care system, and I look forward to celebrating the passage of this historic law far into the future.

Rick Palacio is chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party. He was born and raised in rural Pueblo County.