A few months ago, on the eve of Congress's vote on healthcare reform, I received a letter that summed up what this is all about: strengthening the basic economic security of the middle class.
The letter's writer, a woman from Warren, is a teacher whose daughter was born with a serious medical condition requiring surgery when she was just eight days old. That necessary surgery left the newborn with what will be a lifelong ailment.
Because of healthcare reform, that little girl, who is now three, will never be denied insurance because of her pre-existing condition. Her mother wrote: "Every parent should have peace of mind to know everything with their child is going to be okay."
That's what healthcare reform is about: the middle class's economic security.
Though much of the new law will be gradually phased in, last week, on September 23, a slate of new consumer protections began to take effect for the next plan year.
Starting Thursday, rescissions -- the practice of dropping coverage from paying customers when they get sick and need it most -- became a thing of the past. No child can be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. And adult children are allowed to remain on their parents' insurance plans up until their 26th birthday.
All insurers are prohibited from imposing lifetime caps on coverage -- enabling people to receive the treatment they need without having to worry about reaching a limit or facing financial ruin from medical bills. And every new plan must have an effective and efficient external appeals process, so that if you want to appeal a decision your insurer makes, your concerns aren't lost in corporate bureaucracy.
So many hard-working American families are struggling. Over the last two years, we've been trying to right the ship, and we've made some progress, reforming Wall Street and ending taxpayer bailouts, supporting a "Make It In America" manufacturing strategy, and enacting healthcare reform.
Opponents of health care reform would take away consumer protections -- siding with the insurance industry instead of the middle class. We can't afford that.
These reforms -- the Patients' Bill of Rights chief among them -- are vital for working Americans. Starting next year, insurance companies will be required to put more of your premium dollars into providing health care, instead of spending it on exorbitant CEO pay. In 2014, once the health insurance exchanges (where consumers can comparison shop for coverage) come into operation, no American will be denied coverage, as insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against adults with pre-existing conditions. To see how healthcare reform will impact you directly, visit www.healthcare.gov.
We need for America to get back to basics and focus on the middle class's quality of life. Healthcare reform is vital to restoring that standard of living.
Only then -- only by siding with the middle class in action, not just word -- will our country truly be healthy.
Originally appeared in Sunday's Macomb Daily.