03.27.12

The Leahy Letter -- Health Care Reform Special Edition

The Affordable Care Act Turns Two

Two years ago last week, President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act.  This landmark Act will extend health insurance coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans in the next few years.  Reform based on good-quality and affordable health insurance, talked about for decades, is finally becoming a reality.

Americans are already beginning to see some of the benefits of insurance reform.  Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, more than 4000 young adults in Vermont have gained health insurance coverage under these reforms, which allow young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until their 26th birthdays.  The improvements in Vermont go on and on: 81,649 Vermonters on Medicare and more than 100,000 Vermonters with private insurance gained access to and received preventative screening coverage with no deductible or co-pay.  These are just a few of the dozens of consumer protections included in the law that are benefiting Vermonters and all Americans every day.  

Yet another major reform now protects everyday Americans from one of the most egregious insurance industry practices: setting lifetime or annual limits on health insurance coverage. Senator Leahy has heard many personal, wrenching stories from Vermonters who could no longer get medical treatment because they had met their annual or lifetime maximum before this change in the law.  Many of these Vermonters were perfectly healthy before being diagnosed with cancer or diseases that can cost well beyond their means for treatment.  Instead of being able to focus on getting healthy, patients instead had to worry about whether or not their next doctor’s visit will shove them above the insurance company’s arbitrary limit.

Beginning in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to individuals with pre-existing health conditions or charge higher premiums based on health status or gender.  In a report issued by the National Women’s Law Center last week it was revealed that until these reforms are implemented, insurance companies are continuing to charge women higher premiums than men.  In states where this practice is not prohibited, women can pay substantially more than men solely because of their gender.  Those who wish to turn back the clock and repeal the Affordable Care Act threaten to return the American people to a broken health insurance system where women can be charged more than men, children can be denied insurance coverage because they were born with a health condition, and individuals risk losing their health insurance solely for getting sick.

The Affordable Care Act is a tremendous achievement that will improve the lives of Americans for generations to come.  For decades, heartbreaking stories about the enormous challenges Americans face because they are uninsured or underinsured have permeated Vermont communities.  With each step taken to implement the features of the Affordable Care Act, these stories are becoming fewer and fewer and are being replaced by stories of the success of these reforms, one family at a time, all across Vermont and all across America. 

There is still much more to accomplish, and there are still millions of Americans who are struggling to buy or keep adequate health insurance coverage for their families or themselves.  As these reforms are implemented over the next few years, Senator Leahy will continue to work with Vermonters and the Department of Health and Human Services to help Americans gain access to the quality, affordable health insurance that each American needs and deserves.

Senator Leahy Weighs In On The Case Before The Supreme Court

Senator Leahy authored two guest columns to coincide with the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments this week about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The first, “Courts, Cameras, and the Public’s Right to Know,” addresses concerns about the transparency of the judicial process.  The second, “Law is Firmly Rooted in Congressional Practice, Constitutional Precedent,” weighs in on the issues being considered by the Supreme Court.

Click below to read more:

Courts, Cameras, and the Public’s Right To Know

Law is Firmly Rooted in Congressional Practice, Constitutional Precedent

(Sidebar) By The Numbers: What The ACA Means For Vermonters

Young Adults

As of June 2011, 4287 young adults in Vermont had gained health insurance because of the ACA. Health plans are now required to let parents keep their children who are under age 26 and without job-based coverage on their families’ insurance plans.

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Seniors

More than 7000 Vermont seniors with Medicare received a $250 rebate toward their prescription drug costs in 2010 when they reached the so-called ‘donut hole’ – a gap in insurance coverage of Medicare Part D costs for seniors that is gradually being addressed by the new health care law. Over the course of 2011, 6795 Vermonters with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription drugs when they reached the donut hole. Because of this discount, each senior saved $714 on average – leading to accumulated savings of $4,849,624 overall in Vermont. The Affordable Care Act will effectively close the donut hole by 2020.

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Preventive Services

In 2011, 115,000 Vermonters with private health insurance received preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing because of the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, 81,649 Vermonters with Medicare received free preventive services. Preventive services such as well-patient visits with general practitioners, mammograms, colonoscopies, and other screenings are proven to save lives through early detection and treatment and save money for patients and healthcare providers in the long-run.

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Health Promotion and Illness Prevention

Over the past two years, Vermont has received $5.3 million in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act to support statewide and local efforts to help Vermonters lead longer, healthier lives.

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Supporting Community Health Centers

Vermont has 65 existing community health centers; thanks to the Affordable Care Act, these centers have received $8.5 million in the past two years to establish new sites in underserved areas, expand the services each center provides, and increase the number of patients served.

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Grants to Support Vermont Health Services

The Affordable Care Act has provided Vermont with $41.7 million to support public health outreach efforts, bolster the health care workforce, and create networks of care and social services for patients.

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Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693