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Sen. Sherrod Brown Headshot

Let's Not Return to the Days of Health Insurance Abuse

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In America, a family should never be forced into bankruptcy because a child gets sick. In America, an Ohio family shouldn't be denied coverage if it reaches arbitrary annual or lifetime limits on benefits. In America, Ohio seniors shouldn't have to cut pills in half or forgo their medicine altogether because their insurance is gap-ridden. Before health reform was signed into law, too many young adults started their careers without the benefit of health insurance - unable to stay on their parents' insurance while they looked for work.

The health reform law is making changes that benefit all Americans. It would be a tragic mistake to repeal it. Health reform matters for Ohioans from all walks of life.

Health reform matters for Ohio's children

Ohio's children deserve the opportunity to receive medical care that enables them to fulfill their God-given potential. And it makes sense - from both a fiscal and public health perspective - for young adults to remain covered under their parents' private health insurance until they find jobs that offer insurance. But before health reform, the parents of a child with diabetes or juvenile arthritis or in remission from cancer struggled to find health insurance - because insurers denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. A 23 year-old looking for work often went without health insurance while trying to find a job. An accident or illness would land them in the hospital, with their care largely covered by taxpayers.

Now, insurers are banned from denying care to children because of pre-existing conditions, and children can stay on their parents' insurance until age 26.

Health reform matters for Ohio's seniors

Before health reform, seniors on Medicare had additional out-of-pocket costs for cancer screening, preventive care, and even annual physicals. Before health reform, seniors like Mary Lou, the widow of a minister, could see prescription drug costs skyrocket if they needed a certain amount of medicine. A concerned friend of Mary Lou's wrote to me that when she reached this gap in coverage, known as the "donut hole," Mary Lou stopped taking her insulin and took other vital prescriptions every other day instead of the prescribed daily dose.

Now, Medicare covers annual physicals and cancer screenings with no copayments or deductibles. Seniors who hit the gap in their Medicare drug coverage will receive 50 percent discounts on brand-name prescription drugs and biologics this year - saving the average affected senior more than $525 this year and more than $9,000 over the next decade. Every year, these discounts will increase for Ohio's seniors and, by 2020, the Medicare drug coverage gap will be eliminated altogether.

Health reform matters for all Ohioans

Most Americans who have health insurance are relatively happy with their plan...until that plan denies them coverage or delays their claims payments. I've received letter after letter from Ohioans who, once they became ill, had to fight tooth and nail for the insurance benefits they had been paying for year-in and year-out. Before health reform, insurers could limit the amount of care Ohioans receive - shutting off benefits if you reached an arbitrary coverage limit over the course of one year or multiple years. And too many Ohioans had to spend hours on the phone arguing with insurance companies when they'd rather be speaking to their doctors.

Health reform eliminates annual or lifetime caps, prevents insurers from denying care based on pre-existing conditions, and takes concrete steps to bring down costs, including combating costly and life-threatening medical errors and requiring insurance companies to spend 80-85 percent of each premium dollar on medical care. Ohioans will be guaranteed that their hard-earned premium dollars are being spent on medical care rather than on lavish sales trips and exorbitant executive salaries, or they'll get a rebate from their insurer.

Just this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that repealing the health care law would increase the federal budget deficit by $230 billion over the next decade. We cannot afford to let this happen.

I believe in an America in which people who work for a living should be able to take their kids to a doctor if they are sick. I believe in an America where a family can have access to a family doctor. That's why I'm not willing to turn back the clock on health reform. We need to keep our focus on what matters: Ohio families struggling to maintain a good quality of life. Reliable, comprehensive, and affordable health insurance matters to Ohioans and that's why I will continue to fight for the health insurance improvements built into health reform.