03/23/2011 08:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Health Care Reform: One Year and Thousands of Beneficiaries Later

Today marks the one-year anniversary of enacting the Affordable Care Act, the health-insurance reform bill I fought hard to pass in the 111th Congress to ensure Coloradans -- not their insurance companies -- can call the shots on their health care decisions. Equally important, it will enable many Coloradans to choose from improved and affordable coverage plans and feel secure in knowing there are new rules to prevent their insurance companies from abusing their trust -- and money.

While the law's full range of benefits and protections won't be fully in place for several years, I'm particularly proud of how its early provisions have strengthened Medicare, protected kids and lowered costs for small businesses this past year.

  • More than 42,000 Colorado seniors who reached the Medicare Part D coverage gap, or "donut hole," received $250 rebates in 2010 to help cover the disproportionately high cost of prescription drugs. This year, those seniors will see a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the coverage gap.  And nearly 544,000 Medicare beneficiaries can now receive free annual wellness visits and preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies.
  • Because insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions (this protection will be extended to all Americans in 2014), the parents of about 290,000 Colorado kids can rest easy knowing their little ones are now protected. And parents don't need to worry about their adult kids who can't find coverage; over 20,000 Coloradan young adults can now stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26. As a father to two college-aged kids, I know that's a big relief for many families.
  • In 2014, Colorado small businesses will have access to new health insurance exchanges, where they can pool together and get more competitive rates for employee health coverage. Starting last year, over 90,000 Colorado businesses have been able to take advantage of tax credits to help offset up to half the cost of buying coverage.

The Affordable Care Act was never meant to be a one-size-fits-all cast -- and Coloradans don't want that. Our state is using the flexibility built into the reform to mold it to the needs of our state and people. I'm excited to see members of the Colorado General Assembly, from both sides of the aisle, now working on legislation that would structure Colorado's new health insurance exchanges, which will be one-stop marketplaces for individuals and small businesses to negotiate for better prices and options, starting in 2014. The next few years will see more provisions kick into gear for Colorado families, acting together to reduce the deficit by $143 billion in the first 10 years.

Mark Udall