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Harkin: ìThe choice is to go forward, or be dragged backwardî

WASHINGTON ñ Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the following statement marking one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, the new health reform law.|WASHINGTON ñ Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) released the following statement marking one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, the new health reform law. As Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Harkin played a central role in shaping and passing the bill, and stood beside the President as he signed it into law on March 23, 2010.

“It’s been just one year since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, and already, millions of Americans are reaping major benefits. Gone are the days when a large health insurer could use technicalities to cancel your policy if you get sick or impose lifetime limits on your benefits. Starting in 2014, insurers will no longer be able deny coverage due to a preexisting condition, which nearly half of non-elderly Americans have.

“Mark my words, Americans will not allow all of the hard-earned protections and benefits in the Affordable Care Act to be taken away. The choice is to go forward, or be dragged backward to the days when health insurance companies were in the driver’s seat, free once again to discriminate based on preexisting conditions, and to return to all the abuses and discriminatory practices of the past. The great majority of Americans want to go forward.”

Over the past year, the Affordable Care Act has benefited Americans in numerous ways, including:

ï A Patient’s Bill of Rights: The Patient’s Bill of Rights stops insurance companies from imposing pre-existing condition exclusions on children except in limited cases, rescinding or taking away coverage based on an unintentional mistake on an application, setting lifetime dollar limits on coverage, dropping young adults and setting unreasonable annual dollar limits on coverage.
ï Closing the Donut Hole:Last year, nearly 4 million Medicare beneficiaries nationwide received a one-time, tax free $250 rebate to help pay for prescriptions during their “donut hole” coverage gap. Beginning in January 2011, seniors who reach the donut hole receive a 50 percent discount on covered brand name prescription drugs. As of February 28, 2011, nearly 48,000 Medicare beneficiaries have received assistance, reducing their out-of-pocket costs by $38 million, an average savings of nearly $800 per individual.
ï Cost-Free Preventive Services: New insurance plans must cover certain recommended preventive services, including mammograms, colonoscopies, immunizations, and well-baby and well-child screenings, at no cost to the policy holder.
ï Tax Credits for Small Businesses: Overall, the new law provides $40 billion in small business tax credits (from 2010 to 2019) to help offset the costs of purchasing coverage for their employees and to make premiums more affordable. Up to 4 million small businesses nationwide will be eligible this year.
ï Insuring Young Adults: Under the new law, young adults are allowed to stay on their parent’s plan until they turn 26 years old.
ï Fighting Fraud: The Affordable Care Act includes significant new tools, such as provider screenings and enforcement measures, that will help fight fraud and protect taxpayer dollars. In January, the Department of Health and Human Services reported recovering over $4 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2010.

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