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TIM JOHNSON: Reform will provide access to quality health care for SD

By U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson

The Affordable Care Act, or health reform, has been the law of the land for more than three years now. Congress passed health reform and the president signed it into law. The Supreme Court upheld the law. And the best news is that it is working to provide access to quality health care for thousands of South Dakotans and millions of Americans.

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The law is already delivering much-needed reform to the health insurance industry and health care delivery system. Thanks to health reform, children with preexisting conditions are now protected from being denied coverage. In South Dakota, more than 9,000 young adults are now covered under their parents’ health insurance.

As the full implementation of health reform takes effect in 2014, South Dakotans will see even more new benefits. There will be no more annual or lifetime limits on coverage, individuals cannot be charged more due to gender or health status and insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage to any individual based on a preexisting condition.

On Tuesday, our nation took one more giant step toward universal coverage as the new Health Insurance Marketplaces opened for business. People who are uninsured, self-employed or not offered health insurance coverage through their employers will now be able to purchase quality, affordable health insurance coverage.

More than 92,000 uninsured South Dakotans will be able to compare and enroll in one of 35 private, qualified health plans offered in the state’s Health Insurance Marketplace. Coverage will begin Jan. 1. Many individuals will qualify for premium subsidies based on income to help make coverage more affordable.

I understand there is a great deal of misinformation circulating about the Affordable Care Act. Many are confused about how the law affects them. Navigators and trained personnel at Community Health Centers are available in communities throughout South Dakota to provide in-person enrollment assistance and answer questions. To find factual information about the law or to enroll in coverage through the new marketplace, visit or call (800) 318-2596.

Until the Affordable Care Act was passed, the U.S. was the last industrialized country in the world without a comprehensive plan to ensure access to health care. I hope that whether or not individuals support the law, they will take time to understand their rights and responsibilities and take advantage of the new insurance opportunities available under the health reform law.

I am deeply disappointed that some in Washington continue to call for the repeal or defunding of this historic health reform law. Shutting down the government or causing the U.S. to default on our debt over repealing health reform is highly irresponsible, and will cause significant economic harm to an already weak economy. Turning back the clock when millions of Americans are on the brink of being able to finally obtain affordable health insurance coverage is simply wrong.

The Affordable Care Act is here to stay. I will continue to work to support health care reform that ensures all South Dakotans and all Americans, not just the healthy and wealthy, have access to meaningful, affordable health coverage.