JOHNSON: Health care reform good for South DakotaIn the two years since the passage of health reform, thousands of South Dakotans, from children to seniors, have seen a positive difference in their lives.
By: U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, Guest columnist
In the two years since the passage of health reform, thousands of South Dakotans, from children to seniors, have seen a positive difference in their lives.
In 2011, more than 9,000 young adults in South Dakota were able to stay on their parents’ plans. The state’s 118,000 children with private health insurance were protected from being denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
Nearly 100,000 South Dakotans on Medicare received free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The Census Bureau reports 1.3 million more Americans had access to health care coverage last year than the year before.
I believe all Americans deserve the peace of mind of knowing their families will always have stable coverage that cannot be taken away through life’s ups and downs. Americans also deserve access to the treatment they need, when they need it, from the doctor of their choice. This should not be at the discretion of insurance companies; health reform holds insurance companies accountable that the product you purchase provides reliable and meaningful benefits.
And this should not come at a price that continues to eat away at an increasing share of your paycheck. Too many South Dakotans have lived in fear of the costs they will incur if they or their families experience an unexpected health care emergency.
The health reform law is slowing the growth of health care costs to the lowest rate it has been in years and reining in the astronomical premium increases of the past decade. According to the most recent estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the Affordable Care Act will reduce the deficit by $109 billion over the next 10 years and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that.
The last two decades of rising health care costs have had a disproportionately large impact on smaller employers, the backbone of our economy. The health reform law provides important tools in assisting small businesses with the costs of providing health insurance for employees.
In addition to tax credits for qualifying businesses, the law also requires insurance companies standardize their product descriptions to ease the process of comparing coverage options.
Since health reform was signed into law, almost 4.5 million private sector jobs have been created and the health sector has been one of the largest contributors to this growth. The reform law also makes important investments in our current health care workforce and strengthens the pipeline to create future health providers.
Thanks to health reform, Medicare beneficiaries, in addition to being able to access free preventive screenings, are paying less out of pocket for their prescriptions — $600 less on average in South Dakota. Through reductions in waste, fraud and abuse and reducing overpayments to private insurance companies, health reform makes all of these improvements to Medicare benefits while extending the solvency of this vital program by 8 years.
Health reform has begun a fundamental transition of our health care system. This law is not perfect. No reform law of this size ever could be.
I have supported efforts in Congress to fix what isn’t working, and I am willing to work with colleagues on both sides to continue to make improvements. The fact is that the health care reform law is providing real benefits now for South Dakotans and millions of Americans.
I am committed to ensuring that all Americans, not just the healthy and wealthy, can access affordable health care.