After health reform passed the House of Representatives and was signed into law by President Obama, something extraordinary happened.
People stopped listening to opponents’ characterizations of the health reform bill and started looking to see what was actually in the reform for themselves, their families and their businesses. Media outlets started to run stories answering those questions. And within days, polls like USA Today’s showed more and more people coming around to support reform.
But we’re not quite at the happy ending.
In one last twist in this interminable debate, the Senate Parliamentarian struck 16 lines from the fixes package now before the Senate. The eliminated language amounts to only a slight technical change to the student loan provisions of the bill, but it will mean one more vote in the House, probably late Thursday. Leadership is confident the legislation will clear this final hurdle easily. Once that procedural sideshow is dealt with, they’ll continue working to explain the new law to the American people.
As well they should. Congress has a responsibility to ensure consumers have the information they need under the new law. Every American consumer should know that, under the current legislation, they will have substantial new protections this year.
To name just a few of the immediate benefits:
Children under 18 can no longer be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition
Children under 26 are eligible to stay on their parents’ health care plan
Lifetime caps on benefits are forever banned
Insurers will be prevented from combing over sick customers’ paperwork for an error in order to drop their coverage
Small businesses are eligible for a tax credit towards the cost of covering their employees
Co-pays for preventive care will be eliminated, keeping more people healthy and therefore reducing expensive hospital stays and emergency room visits
Insurance standards will require your insurance provider to dedicate a minimum of 80-85% of your premiums to care, not administration and CEO salaries
Even if health reform stopped at just these improvements, it would still be progress. But the great thing is, those are just the beginning of a series of reforms that are clearly in the public interest.
In the coming years, the new law also starts to set the conditions for seriously addressing the rising cost of care: setting up exchanges in each state to increase insurance competition, reforming Medicare to increase efficiency and improve care, and conducting new studies of what works and what does not.
Getting the implementation right will require enough public support to keep Congress pressing for the maximum benefits for the American people. And health reform advocates inside and out of Congress can only earn that support by answering the simple question: what the new law will mean to America’s individuals, families and small businesses. Because at the end of the day, better care and cost savings trump rhetoric and name-calling.
~ By Larry McNeely, Health Care Advocate, Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG),In the Public Interest, Huffington Post blog column