By Ethan Rome - Executive Director, Health Care for America Now
On Wednesday the Republicans on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee are holding a "public" hearing about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the state capitol in Harrisburg, Penn. Except they're not there to listen to the public and people like Pennsylvania's Stacie Ritter, whose family had good insurance and still had to file for bankruptcy because of massive medical bills.
Stacie and her husband Ben had to pay huge fees for the treatments their twin little girls, Hannah and Madeline, needed when they were diagnosed with leukemia. At the same time, Ben had to take time from work to help care for the twins and their other children. It was too much and they went bankrupt. Thankfully Hannah and Madeline are doing well today.
Unfortunately, the Republicans don't care about people like the Ritters. They want to repeal the new law that would help prevent other families from going through the same thing that happened to Stacie's family. They even want to repeal one of the provisions Stacie is most grateful for - the one that requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions. That provision means Madeline and Hannah will always be able to get affordable health insurance despite their medical history.
The Republicans are in Pennsylvania on the first anniversary of this historic law to play politics and to grandstand. They've invited Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and other partisan opponents of the law to testify. Not invited: ordinary members of the public. So it's not really a public hearing - it's a show trial, another act of political theater in the Republicans' relentless effort to repeal and undermine the new law. Just down the hall, Stacie and others are holding a reality-based hearing in the Capitol Rotunda to make sure the stories of average Pennsylvanians are heard, especially those already benefiting from the law's many cost savings and consumer protections.
Stacie Ritter's story is all too familiar. People finding coverage or claims denied. People being forced to pay more because of a pre-existing medical condition or being denied coverage outright. People getting stuck on hold for hours to get a simple issue resolved by phone. People running up against annual or lifetime coverage caps and unaffordable co-pays and deductibles that cause more than 900,000 medical bankruptcies a year. All the while, insurance company profits soar, and CEOs make millions. That's why Stacie joined Health Care for America now to fight for change.
The ACA is putting a stop to this madness. It ends the worst health insurance company abuses and protects our care. It provides cost savings, consumer protections and greater health care choices. It puts a check on out-of-control profits that fuel premium increases that are crushing families and small businesses.
The Republicans derisively call the ACA "Obamacare" and rail against the "government takeover of health care." They'd rather not tell the truth about what the law really does because that information does not help their case.
Here are the facts:
- Millions of seniors are receiving free preventive care, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and relief from skyrocketing prescription drug prices, including $250 checks for people who reached the "donut hole" and a 50% discount on brand name drugs. The ACA has provided these savings while eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare system.
- For small businesses, job-creating tax credits are available to help cover their employees. More small businesses are now providing coverage.
- Adult children can stay on their parents' health plans until they're 26, which provides much needed access to care and peace of mind (especially for the parents) in this tough economy.
- The ACA ends unconscionable abuses like dropping you because you fall ill or because you made a mistake in your paperwork. It bans the odious practice of denying your care or charging you more for having a pre-existing condition. It ends annual and lifetime caps on coverage.
- For the first time ever, the insurance companies are being held accountable, capping how much they can charge, limiting excessive profits and putting the brakes on bloated compensation for CEOs. Guaranteeing a good deal instead of a raw deal with our health insurance - that's what the ACA does.
The ACA is providing life-changing benefits, cost-savings and protections that are making a huge difference in people's lives right now.
The ACA is about more than health care. It's also about economic security for families struggling to make ends meet. We can't preserve and expand the middle-class if people have to worry about health care. People have enough to worry about with high unemployment, rising gas and food prices and keeping up with mortgage payments.
Instead of creating jobs and growing the economy, the Republicans are re-fighting the battles of the past and trying to take us back to the days when insurance companies had a stranglehold on our health care.
People like Stacie Ritter are insisting that we move forward. "This is America," she says. "I knew we could do better with our heath care than we've done in the past and I'm glad we have this law. We won't go back. We've got to move forward."
NOTE: Health Care for America Now has a chart that highlights the features of the Affordable Care Act and shows what the Republican repeal plan would do. You can download a printable, high-resolution version with citations here.