Op-Ed: Still time to get ACA health care coverage for 2015

February 11, 2015
In The News

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working, and now is the time to make the law work even better for you — by signing up for insurance in the Marketplace while you have the chance.

If you or members of your family do not currently have access to health insurance through an employer, TRICARE, Medicare, CHIP or Medicaid, then you have until Feb. 15 to sign up for quality, affordable health care insurance via HealthCare.gov.

Already, millions of Americans — including more than 300,000 Virginians — have signed up for health insurance plans through the Marketplace. But we know that even more people could use the Marketplace to get covered.

The Marketplace is designed to cut the hassle out of finding health insurance that fits your budget. Many people are eligible for financial assistance to cover a significant portion of the cost of monthly health insurance premiums: Most individuals earning up to $46,680 and families of four earning up to $95,400 are eligible for assistance.

The ACA also includes a variety of consumer protections for virtually all people buying health insurance. For example, the ACA makes sure that employers and insurance companies cannot discriminate against people with a pre-existing medical condition, cannot cancel your health insurance simply because you are sick and cannot place lifetime limits on your coverage.

Health insurance coverage improves people’s health and saves lives. For example, we know that when breast cancer is detected early, the five-year relative survival rate is 99 percent, but declines to 24 percent when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Nobody should have to forgo a life-saving screening because she lacks money or health insurance. The ACA puts preventive care first, like cancer screenings and immunizations, by requiring most plans to offer preventive services without copay or coinsurance.

As a result of the ACA’s reforms, more than 3 million young adults have gained coverage because they can now stay on their parents’ health plan up to age 26. More than 8 million seniors in the so-called Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” have saved billions of dollars, and more than 37 million seniors in Medicare have received access to free preventive services. And while insurance companies still set premium rates, the ACA has tough new rules that crack down on unjustified rate hikes, and require that the money you pay in monthly premiums is actually spent on medical services — not excessive administrative expenses or CEO bonuses.

The more people learn about the ACA, the more they support it. Those trying to repeal the law should be honest with seniors about what will happen to their free preventive care in the absence of the ACA. They should explain to young adults how repealing the law will mean that they get kicked off their parents’ policy. They should explain why they’re taking away the new health care benefits that millions of other Americans now enjoy and cannot otherwise afford without the ACA. And they should explain why insurance companies should be allowed to deny coverage to those with a pre-existing condition.

While Washington Republicans continue to talk about repeal, we should be talking about the progress we’ve made and how we can continue to move in the right direction by improving the ACA and ensuring better provider networks. And we should be focused on fully implementing the ACA in Virginia, which means accepting the expansion of Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid could provide health coverage to nearly 400,000 Virginians, create 30,000 jobs and funnel millions of federal dollars into the commonwealth’s budget. It is the morally and fiscally responsible thing to do.

Information is power, and those who know about the ACA’s benefits should spread the word and encourage others to sign up for a plan that will provide financial and health security for years to come. Marketplace open enrollment runs until Feb. 15 — and now is the time to make sure you, your family, your friends and your neighbors are covered.