Ed. Note: This blog is cross posted from The Huffington Post.
Back when Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, we said that one of our top priorities was the health and well-being of our veterans and their families -- and we said that not only as First and Second Ladies, but as mothers and wives. For us, there's nothing more important than knowing that our families are healthy and happy. And after spending so much time with military families and hearing your stories of service and sacrifice for our country, I know that that's your priority as well.
But while many veterans qualify for health coverage through VA programs, we know that today, there are 1.3 million uninsured veterans and nearly 1 million uninsured family members of veterans. As a result, right now, people who've already sacrificed so much for this country all over the world have to face yet another challenge here at home: dealing with the worry that one accident or illness could mean losing everything you have; enduring all those everyday stresses -- the pains you try to ignore, the symptoms you hope will just go away because you can't afford to see a doctor.
That's just not right. But thankfully, because of the new health care law, you and millions of other Americans will soon have access to the quality, affordable health insurance you need. This new law means you can get preventive care -- things like flu shots, mammograms and vaccines for kids -- without additional costs or co-pays. It means you can't be denied coverage because you have a pre-existing condition like diabetes, cancer or asthma. And it means that young people can stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old.
And if you don't have insurance, there's now a simple way for you and your family to get all of these benefits, along with the coverage you need.
If you are a veteran who is uninsured and hasn't applied for VA coverage, you may be eligible for care through the VA. To find out if you are, just go to VA.gov/healthbenefits, call 877-222-VETS, or visit your local VA facility in person.
If you are a veteran who isn't eligible VA coverage, or if you're an uninsured family member of a veteran, starting October 1st, you and your family can get coverage that fits your needs and your budget -- no matter how much money you make -- through the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov. There, you'll find a range of insurance options, lined up side-by-side so you can compare what each plan covers and how much it costs. Then, you simply choose the plan that works best for you and your family -- and coverage begins as soon as January 1st. It's your health, made simple.
Depending on your income, you may be eligible for discounts on your monthly premiums; people with the lowest incomes may be eligible for free coverage. And the majority of people without insurance today will be able to find a plan for under $100 a month.
Once you get yourself signed up for insurance, make sure everyone you know gets signed up, too. Talk to your friends, your cousins, your neighbors, and especially the young people in your lives. Send them to those websites, and bug them until they sign up, because everyone in this country -- especially families like yours who have given us so much -- deserves the security of knowing that you'll have health care when you need it.