Back in 2006, as my father was dealing with advanced dementia, our family faced a serious set of challenges. In addition to his health problems, we struggled with the lack of transparency in what his health insurance plan covered, and with substantial out-out-pocket costs. We were often left with unanticipated bills after appointments and medical procedures with little recourse.
At times it felt as though the system was set up against us. On several occasions, his insurance company interfered with his treatment, dictating important decisions about his care rather than his doctors. And there was little we could do about it. Helping my mom navigate the process proved to be a frustrating and expensive burden on us. Throughout it all, I would often wonder how many other families were in the same boat struggling with rising health care costs and the worst insurance industry abuses.
Not long after my dad passed away I first heard then Senator Obama speak about his own mother’s struggles with health insurance and the need to pass health reform. I knew that I had to be a part of making that change. Since joining the Obama Administration in 2009, I’ve worked hard to help implement the Affordable Care Act. It’s an honor to come to work every day at the White House to help make this landmark legislation a reality for millions of hard-working Americans who will benefit from the security and peace of mind of having health insurance.
Providing Americans with access to quality and affordable health coverage has been a top priority for the President. Under the Affordable Care Act, for the first time, new historic consumer protections will stop the worst insurance company abuses, by making it illegal for companies to discriminate on people based on pre-existing health conditions, ending lifetime and annual dollar limits on what an insurance company will cover, and capping out-of pocket spending to protect Americans and their families.
I’m particularly thankful that now, under the health care law, you now have the right to get an easy-to-understand summary about a health plan’s benefits and coverage.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s important to consider the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for the Hispanic community. Hispanic Americans represent one third of the nation’s uninsured, and often have higher rates of chronic disease. Getting covered is especially important for the Hispanic community as we can receive preventive services free of charge, like blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.
And the good news is that starting on October 1, people without health care insurance – including 10.2 million Latinos – will be able to visit the Health Insurance Marketplaces to find health coverage that fits their budget and meets their needs, with less hassle. With a single application, you can also see if you qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or savings you can use right away to lower your health insurance premiums. Coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2014.
The Marketplaces will be competitive, transparent, and simple to navigate – and you’ll be able to shop for coverage over the phone or in-person, or visit the easy-to-use Marketplace website, www.HealthCare.gov.
This isn’t just policy or ideology to me. It’s about fixing problems that deeply impacted my family and so many others. I hope you’ll spread the word about this great opportunity and important new benefits.