Today I received an email from Stacey Lihn. Well, not just me. Probably half a million others as well. She was asking me to support President Obama's re-election. You may remember Stacey from the Democratic National Convention. She is the mother who talked about how important the Affordable Care Act has been to her family already, particularly for her daughter Zoe who was born with a congenital heart defect. Zoe was barely six months of age before she had spent half of the Lihn family's lifetime limit on their health insurance. But because of the ACA, lifetime limits have been eliminated, and Zoe's third and hopefully final surgery will be covered.
Stacey's email reminded me of how important it is to remember the personal stories at this point in the election season. Talking heads will pontificate about who won what debate and what poll is really accurate. But there are real consequences to this election, and if candidate Mitt Romney is elected, he has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act as one of his first priorities. And it's one of the few points on which he has not flip-flopped. Even though the ACA has not yet been fully implemented and won't be until 2014 (so stop blaming it for everything you don't like about health care!), there are a number of features that are now law. Stacey Lihn and her family benefit from one of them. The elimination of lifetime limits on health insurance coverage.
Other aspects of the law are also now working -- the woman who cuts my hair has a 24-year-old son who had cancer, but because of the ACA she was able to put him on her insurance plan and get him the right treatment, because he was not yet 26 years old. Another friend has been putting off getting a mammogram and pap smear for years because she can barely pay for her insurance premiums, much less copays and coinsurance for these tests. Now she can get free preventive services because of the ACA.
The son of a friend was shocked when he got a decrease in his premium this year, because of the part of the law that says insurance companies have to spend at least 80 percent of your monthly premium on actual medical care, not advertising, marketing or other administrative expenses. This year, 12.8 million Americans will receive $1.1 billion in rebates because of this rule.
You must know someone who is over 65 and on Medicare. If they have a lot of prescription drug costs, ask them if they have noticed that their drug costs have been reduced because of the ACA? More than 5,254,000 seniors and people with disabilities have saved $3.7 billion on their drugs since the enactment of the ACA in 2010. I know that my mother, who is 97, and has a limited income, relies on these drug cost reductions.
As of September 2010, another benefit of "Obamacare" kicked in for some nearby neighbors. They have a dauaghter whose pre-existing condition meant that they could not get coverage for her. But now they have her on a policy and once the State Health Insurance Exchange is fully functional in 2014, they all can get covered without worrying about their other pre-existing conditions being a barrier.
Health reform is not finished in this country. It has only begun. The Affordable Care Act has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, and over time it will be improved. However, if Mitt Romney is elected president, his promise to repeal it will mean real tragedy for many American families. His plan for health reform does not include any of the benefits mentioned above.
Your vote matters. Tuesday, October 9 is the last day to register in many states. If you have not yet registered, check out this website "Can I Vote?" or the Rock the Vote site. There are no excuses for staying out of this one. It means a lot to someone you know and love.