Today, we got some good news about how the Affordable Care Act is already making a difference in people’s lives across the country. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), which provides retirement and health benefits to more than 1.6 million people and their families, sent me a letter detailing how the new law has already helped them improve benefits and keep down costs for thousands of retirees and their family members.
One of the new law’s key first-year provisions allows most children who don’t get health coverage from their jobs to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26. CalPERS reports that under this provision, 27,000 young adults will get coverage by the beginning of next year. That’s not only good news for those young people, but imagine what a relief it is to their parents and other family members who worried that their sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters were going to be uninsured. Instead, thousands of families will have new peace of mind next year.
According to the letter, another of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions CalPERS is making a big dent in the cost of insurance. The new law created the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program to help plan sponsors like CalPERS maintain health coverage for early retirees and their families, for whom premiums have skyrocketed in recent years. So far, approximately 4,700 employers and unions have signed up, including CalPERS.
In its letter, CalPERS explained that by factoring the new program into its 2011 health plans, it was able to provide approximately $200 million in premium savings to 115,000 early retirees and their families. That makes a huge difference at a time when many families are struggling to pay their bills and make ends meet.
This letter is good news for California families, and we’re seeing similar signs of progress across the country. Just nine months after it was signed into law, the Affordable Care Act is already fulfilling its promise to help working Americans get and keep insurance, and to slow rising costs for those who have coverage, while ending some of the worst practices of the insurance industry with a new Patient’s Bill of Rights. And in the months to come, we look forward to working with CalPERS and employers across the country to implement this new law and make sure all Americans can get the care they need.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of Health and Human Services