March 23rd marks the two-year anniversary of President Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. While some of the components of the law will not be fully effective until 2014, the ramifications are already being felt around the country.
Anyone questioning the success of the Affordable Care Act need only ask:
The college student, or the recent college grad struggling to find full-time employment with benefits, who is now allowed to be covered under their parents insurance until age 26.
The working mom with breast cancer who previously would not have been able to change healthcare providers because of her "pre-existing condition."
Seniors who are now saving hundreds of dollars on prescription drugs and receiving access to free life-saving tests for chronic diseases.
These are just some of the many benefits that have already been enacted under the landmark legislation. Over the next two years, a key provision of the law will have a sizeable impact on healthcare access in this country.
Under this provision, most individuals will be required to have health insurance beginning in 2014 and those who do not have access to affordable employer coverage will be able to purchase coverage through a Health Insurance Exchange while small businesses will be able to purchase coverage through a separate Exchange. This system will make premium and cost-sharing credits available to some people to make coverage more affordable.
In order to comply with and capitalize on this law, New Jersey must have a working exchange in place by January 2014. I am a proud sponsor in the Assembly of legislation (A-2171) that will allow us to do just that. The measure now awaits action by the Governor after recently receiving approval from both houses of the legislature.
This is a monumental step towards our goal of making quality healthcare affordable for every resident and business, alike, and not something that should be treated like a political football.
The exchange is designed to promote choice and value for your money by allowing an individual or small business to compare the costs and benefits of various health plans and benefit options while being part of a large insurance pool, which helps lower rates.
For small businesses, this is key because it will provide them with access to the same rates as larger companies, thereby leveling the playing field and providing them with the choice and freedom they deserve.
By establishing an exchange in New Jersey, working people and small businesses will also be eligible for billions of dollars in available federal tax credits.
This will provide small businesses with the peace of mind knowing they can afford to offer their employees’ health care and that there are tax breaks to make it possible.
According to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, in the last year, 29 states received over $700 million in grants to establish health insurance exchanges, which will give American families and small businesses the same health insurance options as Members of Congress through competitive health care marketplaces.
Lowering premiums for small businesses, boosting prescription coverage for seniors, covering young adults until they’re firmly on their own feet, and eliminating “job-lock” so that people with pre-existing conditions can be free to pursue new opportunities without fear of being denied coverage by a new insurer are just some of the many benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Couple all of this with the fact that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the law will reduce the number of uninsured by 32 million by 2019 while reducing the deficit by $124 billion during this time period.
It’s clear that this law is working and its full effects have not even been felt yet. Now is no time to let politics get in the way of real reform. Scare tactics and misinformation will not provide struggling families with the coverage they deserve.
But, federal tax credits along with a state health insurance exchange will help bring affordability to New Jersey’s health care industry and put working families back in the driver’s seat with respect to securing health insurance.