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 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and because of my leadership throughout the process, then-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 eight new community health centers, and provide affordable preventative services.
I secured a provision in the Affordable Care Act to ensure that safety-nets are in place to prevent price gouging and hold insurance companies accountable. The provision guarantees transparency on rates and enables 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. By one estimate, consumers in a number of states have saved over $154 million in premium costs because their premium increases were deemed excessive (http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/health-insurance-rate-approval-disapproval.aspx). The provision I secured is helping ensure health care affordability for working families in the 4th Congressional District of Maryland and across the country by holding private insurers (both inside and outside of the Exchange) accountable.
Despite such consumer protections and numerous other benefits in the ACA, House Republicans have forced nearly fifty votes to defund, delay, and overturn the ACA. Some of these landmark benefits and protections include:
- Prohibiting pre-existing condition exclusions 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; and
- Requiring new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
I also co-sponsored 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.