03/23/2013 01:18 pm ET Updated May 22, 2013

Affordable Care Act; A Right for Future Generations

Three years ago, President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, the most
important bill I've ever voted for.

I was proud then to support health care reform, to ensure all Americans could get access to
affordable coverage, and I'm proud today that we've expanded access to preventive care,
curbed insurance company abuses, and lowered the cost of prescription drugs for seniors.

Prior to passage of health care reform, instead of a health care system, we were operating
a "sick care" system in the United States - a system that focused on treating patients after
they became ill, instead of a system promoting health and well being from the start.

But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Americans now have access to basic preventive
health services such as mammograms, flu shots and well-child visits, without the burden
of a co-pay or deductible. Medicare recipients are also eligible for free preventive care
services. This is an example of smart reform that cuts costs by catching illness and disease
up front and preventing the need for avoidable treatments. In Massachusetts, more than 1.7
million people on private insurance and more than 685,000 Medicare recipients have taken
advantage of free preventive care.

Before we passed this law, too many families faced bankruptcy when a loved one faced an
unexpected medical emergency. Now, insurers are prohibited from setting arbitrary lifetime
spending caps, so that no family has to fear the burden of economic distress, in addition
to an emotionally trying illness. As we continue implementing health care reform through
2014, insurers will be banned from instituting annual spending caps. Because of this change
in 2011, 2.5 million residents in Massachusetts were freed from worrying about lifetime
coverage limits.

This historic legislation also expanded coverage to millions of young people. Before, when
a teenager turned 19 they were forced off their parents' insurance, regardless of whether
they had a job that provide insurance coverage. Today, young adults up to age 26 can
remain on their parents' insurance - providing relief to families of those looking for work in
this time of economic instability. More than 21,000 young Massachusetts residents remain
covered because of this reform.

Health care reform will also close the infamous "donut hole" in prescription drug coverage
for Medicare recipients. The donut hole was a gap in coverage that forced many seniors to
pay 100 percent of their prescription drug costs. Now, instead of exorbitant out-out-pocket
costs, Medicare Part D recipients are eligible to receive up to a 50 percent discount on
certain prescription costs. And soon, the donut hole gap will be closed for good. Since the
law was enacted, it has saved Massachusetts Medicare recipients more than $96.4 million.

The Affordable Care Act has also cracked down on the worst insurance company abuses.
No longer can insurance companies discriminate against patients and deny coverage
based on preexisting conditions. And the discriminatory practice of insurance companies
overcharging women for the same exact coverage as men has been banned. Now, no child
with preexisting conditions such as asthma can be denied coverage, and by 2014, that
guarantee will apply to all Americans.

Despite the tremendous progress this law has made insuring millions of Americans,
congressional Republicans led by Rep. Paul Ryan have introduced a budget proposal that
threatens the security of Medicare and Medicaid. Senator Ted Cruz is leading the charge to defund the law in its entirety.

Let me be clear. We've come too far to turn back now.

I will continue to defend the Affordable Care Act, protect these important reforms and
ensure all Americans have access to quality affordable health care.

Health care is a right, not a privilege, and we must ensure that right for future generations.