Years ago, I was a single-working mother who could only afford health insurance for my young son. Without health insurance, I was not able to receive the preventative care necessary to avoid an illness that resulted in a trip to the emergency room and thousands of dollars of medical debt. That experience was one of the biggest inspirations for me to run for Congress and help pass comprehensive health care reform for millions of mothers like myself and all Americans who faced a broken health care system dominated by insurance company profits.
I was an original cosponsor of the Affordable Care Act and because of my leadership throughout the process, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) honored me with being one of only a few members to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore on the day of the final vote. The comprehensive health care reform law passed by Congress is defining a new era of quality, accessible, and affordable health care for millions of Americans. In Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, the law is helping reduce health disparities, establish up to 8 new community health centers, and provide affordable preventative services.
I added a provision to the Affordable Care Act that would make sure safety-nets are in place to prevent price gouging that will hold insurance companies accountable. This will help ensure health care affordability for working families in the 4th Congressional District of Maryland and across the country. The provision enables states to review private insurer’s premium increases beginning in 2010. The provision guarantees transparency on rates and will also enable state insurance commissioners to recommend to the National Insurance Commissioner whether a particular insurer should participate in the Health Insurance Exchange, taking into account excessive or unjustified premium increases in making that determination. The language I secured will ensure affordability for working American families by holding private insurers (both inside and outside of the Exchange) accountable.
There are also several provisions that are currently helping improve the community’s access to health care. They include:
- Prohibiting pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;
- Providing immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;
- Prohibiting dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;
- Lowering seniors prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole;
- Offering tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
- Eliminating lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;
- Requiring plans to cover an enrollee’s dependent children until age 26;
- Requiring new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
I also co-sponsored H.R. 5808, a bill to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to establish a public health insurance option. I believe it is critical to include a robust public option into the health exchange that will increase competition and lower costs for consumers, allowing many more individuals to afford health insurance.
I attended the National Association of Free Clinics (NAFC) Health Day to highlight the amazing services and resources provided by free clinics. The all-day clinic was aided by 1,000 volunteers who helped offer care to over 1,000 patients. Similar free clinics sponsored by NAFC have helped over 8,000 uninsured people nationwide receive critical, often life-saving medical care.
In Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, the health care reform bill will:
- Improve coverage for 476,000 residents with health insurance.
- Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 112,000 families and 13,300 small businesses to help them afford coverage.
- Improve Medicare for 71,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
- Extend coverage to 50,500 uninsured residents.
- Guarantee that 11,800 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
- Protect 1,200 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
- Allow 54,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents’ insurance plans.
- Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 8 community health centers.
- Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $20 million annually.