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Health care reform status: Dire.
Prognosis: Pending November results.
As a physician, I am highly concerned. Health care reform has come too far for its progress to be erased. No one gets to choose when he or she gets sick. Illness afflicts everyone at some point in their lives, often without warning. Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the status quo of health care was one of great uncertainty. Like pulling out a trusty umbrella to shield yourself from a sudden downpour, only to find it broken, many patients found their insurance did not cover them when they needed it most.
Since being passed, the ACA has made great strides toward the goal of affordable, effective, and fair health care. The ACA is already having a huge impact in California. As of this past April, 8,662 previously uninsured residents are now covered under the ACA’s new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. These residents need not worry about a change or loss of job leaving them without health insurance. For those currently healthy, prevention is the best medicine. Nationwide, the ACA covers preventive services for 54 million privately-insured Americans, including more than 6 million in California. The famed Medicare donut hole will be closed by 2020, but California seniors have already saved more than $310 million on the cost of their prescription drugs. Young adults under the age of 26 are eligible to stay on their family insurance, which has helped provide coverage to 3.1 million people nationwide and more than 435,000 people in California as of December 2011.
Soon patients will be able to choose their insurance policies in state run affordable insurance exchanges. Insurance plans will be presented in a standardized format that allows people to compare them head to head. This represents a true step forward for patient freedom of choice. As for employers, a recent study by the Urban Institute found that “the ACA benefits rather than burdens small employers who want to provide health insurance, leaves the overall costs of employer-sponsored health insurance largely unchanged, and offers the potential, through cost containment, of slowing the growth in health care costs, benefiting private along with public purchasers of health insurance.”
Thus, the ACA is already helping patients get much needed care and health coverage, reigning in the abuses of the most egregious health insurance policy practices, and actively addressing the cost of health care in general. As a physician, I support the ACA and I’m not alone. Nearly all major medical associations and patient advocacy groups support the ACA as well. It’s not political, it’s essential for the health, well-being and care of all American citizens. If you’re sick of politics getting in the way of patient care, I have a prescription for you: Take two friends to the voting booth and call me in the morning.
Carolyn M. Senger is a physician researcher at UC San Diego.
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