Happy Annivesary, ACA

Below is my opinion editorial that ran in today’s The State.

One year on, health law helping South Carolinians

Guest Columnists One year ago, we were warned that national health-care reform would impose new taxes, fees and mandates on small businesses, increasing their health-insurance costs. Under this financial pressure, there would be more uninsured due to massive worker layoffs and small-business failures.

Today the Affordable Care Act turns one year old, and small businesses are now realizing that there are not now nor will there be insurance mandates, new taxes or fees for businesses with 50 or fewer employees (97 percent of all S.C. businesses). The vast majority of the larger businesses (97 percent) already offer insurance.

Insurance companies nationwide are reporting dramatic increases in small businesses offering health insurance to employees because the law provides health-insurance tax credits for companies with fewer than 25 workers (88 percent of S.C. businesses). Economic reports show that most of the job growth in the country this year is coming from small and medium-size businesses, and a recent survey indicates that small businesses plan to add nearly 3.8 million jobs in 2011. Bottom line: There is no negative impact on small-business growth.

But the good news isn’t just for small businesses. The ACA is helping children, adults and seniors too.

Approximately 91,000 South Carolinians who have been turned down for health insurance because of a pre-existing condition are now eligible for affordable coverage through the law’s new high-risk pool operated by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children with pre-existing conditions no longer can be denied coverage.

More than 18,000 young adults in our state are projected to benefit from the provision allowing them to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26. This is giving peace of mind to parents to know that their children will have coverage in this economy where young adults are having trouble finding jobs.

Seniors are big winners under the law as well. Nearly 47,000 S.C. seniors received $250 rebate checks to offset prescription costs after they reached the Medicare doughnut hole in 2010. This year, drug companies must give seniors a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs when the doughnut hole is reached. Our 714,000 South Carolinians on Medicare also now receive free annual check-ups and no co-pays for important preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies.

The Affordable Care Act also is benefiting privately insured South Carolinians by ending some of the worst insurance company practices. Insurance companies are now banned from dropping coverage when you get sick. Lifetime limits on how much insurance companies will spend on your health care are now prohibited, and annual limits are being phased out. All new private health insurance plans must fully cover preventive care services such as mammograms, annual check-ups and colorectal exams.

The law also requires health insurance companies to use your premium dollars mostly for your health-care services. Only 15 percent to 20 percent of South Carolinians’ premiums now are allowed to go toward such things as marketing, salaries, commissions, administrations and profit, compared to approximately 40 percent in 2010.

The Affordable Care Act has been extraordinarily beneficial to South Carolinians and all American citizens during its first year without causing a dramatic rise in premiums — just 1 percent according to one insurance company executive.

The future benefits are just as bright and brighter. When fully implemented in 2014, the vast majority of Americans finally will have affordable health insurance. The S.C. Department of Insurance has received millions of dollars in planning-grant funds to move forward on implementation. Even Republican and Democratic legislators are cooperating on implementation plans.

Happy anniversary, Affordable Care Act.
Ms. Berkowitz is director of the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center. Mr. Knapp is president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. Both organizations are founding partners of S.C. Health Care Voices.

© 2011 TheState.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.thestate.com

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