March 4, 2011
Thank you for writing. After a century of striving, after a year of debate, and after a historic vote, health care reform is no longer an unmet promise to the American people. It is the law of the land.
This legislation builds on our current system of private insurance and gives American families greater control over their own health care. It cuts costs for families, gives Americans greater consumer protections and choice, keeps our promises to seniors on Medicare, strengthens small businesses, and cuts the deficit to help secure a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.
Here is what health reform means for you:
KEEPING YOUR COVERAGE: If you like your current insurance, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, there is nothing in this law that interferes with that relationship. In fact, you will have greater control over your own health care, not government or insurance companies.
ENDING ABUSIVE INSURANCE PRACTICES: Because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are prohibited from denying children coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and in 2014, the same will be true for adults. Until 2014, uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions will have access to affordable insurance through a temporary subsidized high-risk insurance pool. Insurance companies can also no longer place lifetime or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care patients receive, and they can no longer drop people from coverage when they get sick. New offices of health insurance consumer assistance will help individuals in the process of filing complaints or appeals against insurance companies.
STRENGTHENING MEDICARE: Guaranteed Medicare benefits are preserved and expanded. In fact, in 2010, seniors in the "donut hole gap" received $250 rebates to help pay for prescription drugs. In 2011, seniors in this coverage gap will receive a 50 percent discount for brand name drugs, and by 2020, the donut hole will be completely closed. In addition, beginning in 2011, Medicare beneficiaries will receive free preventive-care services.
HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES: On the day I signed the new law, small businesses became immediately eligible for tax credits of up to 35 percent of their premium contributions for employee coverage. This makes coverage more affordable so small business owners do not have to choose between hiring and health care. By 2014, small businesses with up to 100 employees will have access to state-based Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges, where they can purchase affordable, quality insurance and may qualify for tax credits up to 50 percent of employer premium contributions.
HOLDING INSURANCE COMPANIES ACCOUNTABLE: Beginning in 2011, insurance companies will be required to submit justifications for requested premium increases. Any company with excessive or unjustified premium increases may not be able to participate in the new exchanges. Insurers will also be required to meet new standards that limit overhead costs and provide premium rebates if they fail to satisfy these new standards. To learn more about how the Affordable Care Act helps hold insurance companies accountable, helps make the insurance marketplace more transparent, and helps increase value for consumers, please visit: www.HealthCare.gov/news/factsheets/medical_loss_ratio.html.
EXPANDING ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE COVERAGE THROUGH TAX CREDITS: Middle class and working families now have greater access to quality, affordable health care. The new law provides tax credits to middle-class families who cannot afford insurance on their own, providing the largest middle class tax cuts for health care in history. New plans will have a cap on what insurance companies can require beneficiaries to pay in out-of-pocket expenses, such as co-pays and deductibles. Additionally, because of the Affordable Care Act, young people up to age 26 can stay on their parents' insurance policy. Reform will expand health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans, guaranteeing 94 percent of Americans will be covered.
PROVIDING MORE OPTIONS THROUGH THE NEW HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGES: Starting in 2014, small businesses and individuals who are uninsured, self-employed, or have lost or changed jobs will be able to choose insurance coverage in new competitive insurance marketplaces. These state-based exchanges will pool buying power, providing Americans with the same private insurance choices that Members of Congress will have, and fostering choice and competition. In addition, the new law allows States to enter into interstate health care choice compacts, where qualified health plans can be offered in all participating States--allowing families to purchase insurance across state lines and find the plan that works best for them.
ADDRESSING MEDICAL MALPRACTICE: The new law establishes a grant program for States to explore alternative means of resolving disputes over medical treatment, and to find ways to reduce medical errors. The grants give States the flexibility to propose tort reforms that work best for them. My Administration is also funding medical liability demonstration projects through the Department of Health and Human Services.
REDUCING THE DEFICIT: The Congressional Budget Office confirmed that health reform will reduce the deficit by over $100 billion in the next decade, and over $1 trillion in the following decade.
CUTTING WASTE, FRAUD, AND ABUSE: Health reform implements unprecedented measures to fight waste, fraud, and abuse and to improve the quality and outcomes of care for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The law ends unwarranted subsidies to private insurance companies and takes important steps to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, improve patient safety, coordinate care, modernize payment systems, and streamline record-keeping. It also realigns incentives to reward medical providers for the value, not the volume, of their care. The law includes virtually all of the main ideas recommended by health policy experts to slow the growth of health care costs over time. For resources and information on how to prevent, report, and stop Medicare fraud, visit: www.StopMedicareFraud.gov.
While some of these reforms will be put in place later, a host of desperately needed reforms have already gone into effect. American workers and families can feel more secure knowing that neither illness nor accident should endanger their pursuit of the American dream.
To learn more about the content of this legislation and how it affects you, visit www.HealthCare.gov or www.WhiteHouse.gov/HealthReform.
Thank you, again, for writing.