March 23, 2011


Saenz: Happy First Anniversary to Affordable Care Act

McALLEN, March 23 - The Affordable Care Act (ACA), one of the most talked-about legislative changes in decades, was signed into law on March 23rd one year ago.

Also known as health care reform, ACA still attracts a lot of attention, just not enough on where it belongs, on children and families being helped in a big way by this law.

In its first year, ACA is already making life better for Texas children. Provisions in the law prevent insurers from denying them coverage due to preexisting conditions. Health care reform is also keeping individuals and families from worrying that just when they need it most, their insurer can legally “rescind” (drop) their coverage. More than a million teenagers and young adults were allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance through their 26th birthday.

Protections for children are especially meaningful for Texas. At 1.6 million, the state with the highest rate of uninsured children in the country for 11 consecutive years could soon provide access to affordable coverage for 95 percent of them thanks to health care reform. The law also provides new incentives for expanding the number of new doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners being trained and prepared to care for the 1 in 4 currently uninsured Texans when they do enter the insurance market in 2014.

Most Texans who kept the insurance they already had prior to March 23, 2010 are now better protected under the ACA. For example, preventive care – like vaccinations, well-child visits and screenings – no longer requires co-payments in a growing number of plans. Seniors on Medicare who had previously paid exorbitant out-of-pocket prescription drug costs received rebates this year. And everyone can now take comfort in knowing that the law will dramatically reduce a family’s financial ruin due to medical illness, currently the cause of 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies.

Granted, the health reform law isn’t perfect, yet. So if we want to make sure the millions of children and adults that have already been helped are still among the millions more that will benefit as we move forward, it is critical for us to work together to improve on it. Speak to your friends about the good things ACA is doing, provide feedback to your elected officials about the positive changes you feel still need to be made to provide secure, affordable coverage.

You can help focus attention to ACA where it belongs: on children whose treatments will not interrupted; on families whose hope for affordable care means an affordable cure; on small business owners who are discovering new opportunities under ACA to secure more affordable health coverage for their employees, the way large corporations do. The Affordable Care Act is not just a political talking point, it is an assurance that improved and reliable insurance coverage is possible for all Texans.

Luisa Saenz is director of Children’s Defense Fund Texas – RGV.

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