In March 2010, President Obama fulfilled a promise that Democrats have pursued for nearly a century: making health care available to all Americans. In all, seven Democratic presidents pushed for health reform over the years, each one moving the ball forward—from Medicare to children’s health insurance. Today, we finally are able to make real the principle that every American should have access to affordable health care, and no one should go bankrupt just because they get sick.
For decades Democrats have fought for the simple idea that everyone should have some basic security in health care. When President Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965, we were finally able to provide that security to America’s seniors. Then in 1997, President Clinton created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to help provide coverage for uninsured children. In 2009, President Obama extended SCHIP to cover an additional 4 million children.
The Recovery Act protected health insurance coverage for nearly 7 million working Americans who lost their jobs in this recession, helping to make insurance more affordable while providing additional support for prevention, health, and wellness.
But it took nearly a century to extend that basic measure of security to all Americans. In 2010, despite unanimous opposition from Republicans, Democrats were finally able to pass comprehensive health reform into law. The Affordable Care Act will hold insurance companies accountable, lower health care costs, expand coverage options, and improve the quality of care for all Americans.
While a host of desperately needed reforms and consumer protections have already begun to take effect, it will take until 2014 to fully implement these reforms in a responsible way. By 2014, health reform will eliminate all discrimination for pre-existing conditions, start the process of expanding health insurance coverage for an additional 32 million Americans, and provide the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in history.
The Affordable Care Act has begun to end the worst insurance company abuses. Since 2010, children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied insurance.
Currently more than half of all bankruptcies in America are related to medical expenses. The Affordable Care Act will help many of these families by limiting out-of-pocket costs for those that purchase coverage through the new health insurance exchanges.
The Affordable Care Act also provides tax cuts to small business to help offset the costs of employee coverage, and tax credits to help families pay for insurance. Health reform will also lower costs for families and for businesses and for the federal government, reducing our deficit by more than $1 trillion in the next two decades alone.
And health reform strengthens Medicare by reducing fraud, improving quality of care, and closing the Medicare “donut hole” gap in seniors’ prescription drug coverage.
Like Medicare before it, the Affordable Care Act lays a new foundation for our country that will bring additional security and stability to the American people for generations to come.