Two-Year Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

March 23, 2012
Dear Friends,

This month marks the two year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Throughout the debate on this bill and after its passage, I have heard from passionate advocates, committed opponents, and many who have sincere and often complex questions about the policies and how they will impact you and your family.  It is my responsibility to keep you updated about some of the important reforms and protections that have already been implemented as well as those that are still to come.  You can watch my speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives marking the two year anniversary of ACA below.
I supported the ACA when it passed the House of Representatives because I believe it is a critical first step in reducing the cost of health care for families and small businesses and providing access to care for those who currently do not have insurance.  The ACA is already providing lower costs and better health coverage for millions of Americans, including 86 million individuals who have received one or more free preventive services, such as check-ups and cancer screenings; 3.6 million seniors in the “donut hole” who have saved $2.1 billion on their prescription drugs; and 360,000 small business owners who have used the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit to help them afford health insurance for 2 million employees.  These are just a few examples of how the health reform law is already empowering people to get access to affordable, quality health care and below are a few more detailed explanations of the positive impact the ACA is having on our country.
Reining in Insurance Industry Abuses
No More Dropping Coverage: Insurance companies can no longer cancel your coverage when you get sick and need it the most. 
No More Lifetime Limits on Coverage: Insurance companies can no longer put a lifetime limit on the amount of coverage they provide.  Now families can live with the security of knowing that their coverage will be there when they need it most. 
No More Discriminating Against Kids with Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies are now prohibited from discriminating against kids with pre-existing conditions.  
Enhancing Benefit Opportunities
Preventive Care: Services like mammograms, colonoscopies, immunizations, pre-natal and new baby care are covered with no out-of-pocket costs and insurance companies are prohibited from charging deductibles, co-payments or co-insurance.
Covering Young Adults on Parent’s Plan: Young adults are now allowed to remain on their parent’s plan until their 26th birthday, unless they are offered coverage at work. This has helped 2.5 million young adults to keep their health insurance.
Lower Costs for Seniors on Prescription Drugs: Seniors now receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the “donut hole” and a 7 percent discount on generics, saving seniors an average of $604.  The health care law will permanently close the donut hole by 2020.
More Premium Dollars for Care: Insurance companies are now required to spend at least 80 percent of collected premiums on medical services and quality improvements, rather than expenses that do not directly benefit policyholders, such as salaries, advertising, overhead and profits.  Insurers must also publish justifications for any premium increases over 10 percent and outside experts will evaluate whether the increases are justified.
Supporting Small Businesses
Tax Credits for Coverage: ACA has provided $40 billion in tax credits to small businesses that choose to offer health insurance coverage to their employees.  Last year 360,000 small employers took advantage of these tax credits and President Obama has proposed expanding the tax credit so more employers would qualify.
Access to Quality Health Plans: In 2014, small businesses will have access to health insurance exchanges, or competitive marketplaces, where they will be able to purchase affordable coverage that has a guaranteed set of minimum benefits.  
More Changes On the Way
Several important provisions of the Affordable Care Act will be implemented beginning in 2014, including coverage for anyone with a pre-existing condition, a cap on out-of-pocket costs and access to health insurance exchanges where uninsured individuals and small business can choose from multiple private plans, thereby benefiting from access to the kind of group rates that are now available only to large employers.  This approach will make health insurance more “portable” and give real relief to the millions of Americans who currently have nowhere to turn. 
The health insurance law also had numerous provisions to slow the growth of health care costs – requiring new transparency and accountability for insurance companies; key delivery system reforms; fighting waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare; better coordinating care; and a renewed focus on preventing diseases before they happen.  
The ACA will expand health coverage and improve quality of care.  But more importantly, it marks a new direction for the country – away from the influence of powerful special interests and towards common sense solutions for America’s families.  As we implement these important changes to our health care system, your input will be invaluable and I ask that you continue to provide me with your comments and suggestions in the weeks and months ahead.


Congressman John P. Sarbanes
Maryland's Third Congressional District