Two years ago, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, giving America a new health care law. Since then, it’s been bringing important benefits to New Hampshire consumers, as people across the state have seen their health insurance get stronger.
Preventive care with no out-of-pocket costs is making a difference for 434,000 Granite Staters. We all know that preventive care can save money and save lives, but too often Americans forego needed preventive services because of cost. In New Hampshire 20% of women over 40 are not up to date on their mammograms and 25% of Granite Staters over 50 have never had a colon cancer screening, even though doctors know these procedures save lives.
But the Affordable Care Act takes important steps to reverse this trend and make sure all Granite Staters can afford the preventive care they need. The law prohibits private insurance companies from charging a co-pay or deductible for recommended preventive services, like mammograms, colon cancer screenings, flu shots and other immunizations, contraception, and regular well-baby and well-child visits with a pediatrician. In the last year, 279,000 Granite Staters – including 107,000 women, 102,000 men, and 70,000 children – have seen their coverage for prevention expanded, which will help them get the care they need.
People with Medicare are also guaranteed free preventive care, including the services seniors need to stay healthy. In 2011, 155,000 New Hampshire seniors got a free preventive service in Medicare. Nationwide, Medicare provided women 6 million free mammograms, 2.8 million free bone mass measurement tests, and 1.4 million free GYN exams.
New Hampshire insurance companies have to play by the rules. In New Hampshire, 902,000 people get health coverage from a private insurance company. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies had too much power in the insurance market. They would arbitrarily cap and cancel Granite Staters’ benefits, or refuse to cover kids just because they were born with a pre-existing condition.
Today, the health care law has put an end to some of the worst insurance industry abuses. The law is making sure that families’ insurance is really there for them when they need it by keeping insurance companies from taking advantage of New Hampshire consumers. In fact, because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Granite Staters have seen their insurance coverage get better. Here’s how:
An estimated 545,000 Granite Staters used to have lifetime caps on their care, so families facing a serious illness would learn that their insurance company was cutting them off when they needed coverage most. But today, these caps are banned for good. This means that if a patient gets breast cancer or has an accident, her coverage will continue even if her treatments are expensive – and New Hampshire families won’t be facing bankruptcy because their benefits run out.
- Insurance companies are finally prevented from canceling coverage because of small paperwork mistakes. Before the health care law if a woman was diagnosed with breast cancer some insurance companies would run a computer program to detect minor mistakes they could use as an excuse to cancel her coverage – even if she had been paying her premiums on time. This wasn’t fair for the 900 New Hampshire women diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and the health care law put an end to this discrimination.
- As many as 69,000 New Hampshire children have pre-existing conditions. As a result of the health care law, no insurance company can deny coverage to kids because of pre-existing conditions like asthma and diabetes. And in two years, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage or charging more because of anyone’s pre-existing condition, benefiting all 600,000 Granite Staters under the age of 65 who have a health condition that could make it hard to find their own insurance.
- The 902,000 Granite Staters with private insurance are protected by reforms that help keep premiums low. Before the health care law, some insurance companies spent as much as 40% of premiums on administrative overhead like marketing and CEO bonuses. But the health care law requires nearly all New Hampshire insurance companies to spend at least 80% of premiums on health care and quality improvement. In addition, if an insurance company wants to raise rates by 10% or more, they have to justify their actions to independent experts.
The health care law strengthens Medicare for 220,000 Granite Staters. Today, seniors across New Hampshire rely on Medicare, and the program provides coverage for 220,000 Granite Staters. President Obama knows that Medicare is an essential program that must be kept strong for today’s seniors and future generations. That’s why the health care law filled gaps and improved coverage for every single person with Medicare, while removing wasteful subsidies for insurance companies.
In fact, the health care law extended the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by eight years at the same time that it is bringing new benefits to New Hampshire seniors. The Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” used to leave seniors paying thousands of dollars for the medicines they need. But the health care law is closing the doughnut hole.
• In 2011 alone, New Hampshire seniors saved millions of dollars because of the President’s law. 8,000 New Hampshire women saved $4.8 million on their prescription drugs, an average of $630 each. In total, 13,000 Granite Staters saved $8.2 million.
More New Hampshire young people have the security that health insurance provides. Insurance companies used to kick young people off their family health plan after high school or college. Some insurance companies would only cover students if they were in school full-time – so young people who were working part-time to put themselves through school part-time would be locked out of the insurance market completely. Together, this made young adults the age group most likely to be uninsured.
The health care law makes sure that young people who were working hard to begin their careers can stay on their family health insurance plan until they turn 26. Today, 8,300 young Granite Staters who would otherwise be uninsured have coverage because of this rule. Nationwide, 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage because of the law.
Discrimination against New Hampshire women is coming to an end. Before the health care law, insurance companies were free to discriminate against women – and they did, charging women 50% more than men for the same insurance coverage. Young women were especially vulnerable to this discrimination, since insurance companies charged them more because they might become pregnant. Even if a woman’s policy did not cover maternity care, she would still be charged more because the insurance company feared it would be on the hook for complications from her pregnancy. That’s simply not fair to the 470,000 women and girls with private insurance in New Hampshire. Because of the health care law, within two years, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to do this.
Repealing the health care law would put insurance companies back in the driver’s seat, and take new rights and protections away from millions of hard-working Granite Staters. President Obama will continue to stand up for the rights of New Hampshire consumers, and make sure health insurance is there for families when they need it most.