01/19/2011 04:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Don't Pull the Rug Out From Health Reform

When we started Consumer Reports magazine back in 1936, one of our biggest concerns was health care. Millions of consumers were struggling to get health insurance they could afford and count on when they got sick. That problem has only gotten bigger since our first issue rolled off the presses 75 years ago.

But today, for the first time in a long time, we're optimistic that our country is on the right path to fixing some of the problems with health care that have dogged us for decades.

The health reform law passed last year has generated an enormous amount of debate and criticism. It's not perfect, but it would go a long way toward improving care for consumers.

As an organization that looks out for consumers, we're already seeing positive changes in health care, with more improvements on the way:

  • Insurance companies can no longer cancel your coverage without cause when you get ill, and they can't put lifetime dollar limits on your benefits.
  • If you have a sick child, insurers can no longer deny health coverage because of your child's pre-existing condition. And insurers won't be able to deny coverage for anyone because of pre-existing conditions, or base the cost of coverage on those conditions, by 2014.
  • Parents now have the choice of keeping their kids on their health plans up to age 26, provided their children don't already have access to their own employer coverage.
  • If you're on Medicare, you can now get annual check-ups, immunizations, and screenings for cancer, diabetes, and other conditions without being charged a co-payment. Plus, Medicare recipients can get substantial discounts on prescription drugs if they have a coverage gap (known as the "donut hole").
  • There are new limits on how much of your premium insurers can spend on advertising, CEO bonuses, and other items that aren't directly related to your medical care. And the law sets up a stronger system for states to review unreasonable premium increases.
  • If you need more day- to-day help to stay in your home as you get older, you will have it, along with incentives for better coordination among doctors and specialists.

These are just a few examples. Yet despite all of these changes for the better, there's an effort underway to repeal the law and wipe out these improvements across the board.

As an independent, nonpartisan organization, Consumers Union doesn't get dragged into the name-calling and finger-pointing in Washington. We just call it like we see it. And the way we see it, repealing this law would be a big step backwards.

That's not just my opinion. It's what we're hearing from consumers like Ed. Ed's a small business owner in Franklin, North Carolina. Last year, his insurer raised the premiums for his company by 29 percent, even though he says none of his employees had any major surgeries or hospitalizations. Thanks to the new law, Ed is eligible to get a 35 percent tax credit for the premiums he pays for his business, which he says will make it possible for him to continue to offer coverage.

That tax credit is another powerful example of what will be lost if this law is repealed. For years, we've seen small businesses dropping their health coverage left and right. Now that trend is changing and more businesses are able to offer coverage. A repeal would pull the rug out from under companies like Ed's and take us right back to square one.

Improving something as important and complicated as health care will take time and patience. For the first time in generations, the country is beginning to make real strides toward health care that offers greater choice and value to consumers and their doctors. The last thing we need to do is go back to the broken-down system of yesterday. The law ought to be given a chance to work.