This November’s elections will decide whether health reform continues or is repealed.
The health reform law, known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), protects consumers from unfair insurance industry practices (such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions; dropping coverage; and having lifetime caps), will expand access to quality, affordable health insurance to millions of Americans, and protect Medicare.
Consumers have received and are on the verge of gaining more significant protections from an insurance industry that has previously been allowed to put profits before service and bonuses before our health care.
And yet, some candidates are pledging that if elected, they will repeal health reform, as well as cut Medicaid, dismantle Medicare by turning it into a voucher program, and cut Social Security and Veterans’ benefits.
We need to fight to protect these programs that provide health and financial security to millions of individuals and families – and we need to take this fight to the ballot box in November by turning out educated, informed “health care voters.”
Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) needs your help and financial contribution to carry out a massive voter registration, voter education, and voter mobilization campaign to “Vote for Health Care.”
Please read on for factual information about the health reform law – the new benefits and protections already in place, and those to come – and what’s at stake when it comes to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Also, learn about CCHCC’s campaign to turn out “health care voters” and how you can help!
Current Benefits and Protections of Health Reform
The health reform law provides basic consumer protections and helps make health care coverage more secure for our families. This law also requires that members of Congress get their health care coverage from the same plans as millions of Americans.
Below is information about the current benefits and protections already in place, thanks to health reform.
Protections and Benefits for Children and Young Adults: This law provides two major new benefits to children and young adults: protection from denial of coverage, and expansion of coverage.
· Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children up to age 19 with pre-existing conditions.
· Insurance companies must cover children’s regular wellness visits, immunizations, flu vaccines, and screening/counseling for such issues as obesity, anemia, and depression.
· Young adults may stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 if their employer does not provide them with insurance.
Basic Consumer Protections: The law now holds insurance companies accountable and ends long-standing harmful practices. Consumers now have these protections:
· Insurance companies cannot “rescind” or drop coverage because of illness.
· Insurance companies can no longer place “lifetime limits” on the coverage they provide.
· Insurance companies must spend 80 – 85% of the insurance premiums you pay on your health care.
New Benefits for Women: Being a woman just got a little easier. As of August 1, 2012, new and renewing health insurance plans must provide women access to basic prevention-related health services without paying more out of their own pocket. These services include:
· Annual well woman visit.
· Birth control, including oral contraceptives and IUDs.
· HIV and sexually transmitted infection screening and counseling, screening for gestational diabetes, breastfeeding consultation and supplies including breast pumps, and domestic violence screening and counseling.
Benefits for Seniors, Improvements to Medicare: The health reform law protects Medicare benefits for seniors and strengthens the program for future generations by aggressively cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse, ending handouts to insurance companies, and providing free preventive care with no co-pay. New benefits include:
· Preventive services, like wellness exams and mammograms are covered at no cost now.
· The Medicare Part D prescription coverage gap, or the “donut hole,” gets smaller each year and will be closed by 2020.
· Individuals who fall into the donut hole get a 50% discount on brand-name prescriptions and other discounts on generic drugs.
· In addition to other benefits like improved post-hospital care and increased quality of care, the law aims to reduce Medicare fraud and waste – efforts that put more money back into Medicare.
New Insurance for “Uninsurable” Consumers with Pre-Existing Conditions: The health reform law established a federally-funded pool of health insurance for consumers who have been denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. In Illinois, the federally-funded pool is known as the Illinois Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (IPXP). IPXP is a transitional insurance program for uninsured Illinois residents. By design, this plan provides transitional coverage until 2014 for the currently uninsured with pre-existing conditions.
Benefits to Businesses: A tax credit for small businesses and non-profits, which covers up to 35 percent of the premiums a small business pays, took effect in 2010. In 2014, the tax credit will increase to 50 percent.
By January 1, 2014, the remaining critical components of national health reform will be implemented – as long as we exercise our constitutional right to vote in November and make sure we elect officials who will protect and expand access to health care, not seek to defund or repeal national health reform.
Health Reform Benefits to Come and How to Make Them a Reality
The most far-reaching benefits of the health reform law – the expansion of affordable health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, and even greater consumer protections – will be implemented in 2014. The expansion of health insurance coverage will come from two sources:
· The Health Benefits Exchange, where individuals, families, and small businesses will purchase their health insurance coverage, get subsidies to make insurance more affordable, and gain new consumer protections.
· Expanded Medicaid programs for low-income individuals.
The health reform law leaves these major components up to the individual states, giving states tremendous rights and responsibilities for implementing the Exchange and expanded Medicaid program. The important role that the states will play in implementing health reform makes state-level elections just as important as the elections for national office.
The Health Benefits Exchange – Affordable Insurance and New Consumer Protections: The Health Benefits Exchange is a competitive insurance “marketplace” where individuals and small groups will go to get their health insurance starting January 1, 2014. Consumers will be able shop for health insurance in the Exchange through a website, phone number, or community “navigators.” Through the health exchange, consumers will be able to see if they qualify for Medicaid or insurance premium subsidies, compare health insurance prices and options, and purchase health insurance. Health insurance plans offered through the exchange are subject to certain standards and regulations and must include “essential benefits.”
Here are the benefits (to begin in 2014) of the Exchange:
· The Exchange will offer plans that allow you to keep your doctors.
· Quality and affordable plans in the Exchange can’t deny coverage due to pre-existing or chronic conditions like cancer.
· Plans in the Exchange must have basic benefits (coverage for doctor visits, preventive care, hospitalizations, and prescriptions).
· The Exchange is voluntary; if you like what you have you can keep it.
· Plans in the Exchange won’t be able to charge women higher rates than men.
· If you lose your job, coverage, or want to start a business, the Exchange is there for you.
· Strong oversight will protect you from misleading information and hidden costs.
· The Exchange gives individuals/small businesses equal purchasing power as big employers.
· Members of Congress will be purchasing their health insurance from the Exchange.
Medicaid Expansion: Millions of currently uninsured low-income individuals will be able to qualify for Medicaid in 2014 as a result of health reform. The Medicaid program is currently only for low-income people who ALSO meet certain categorical eligibility requirements (such as age, pregnancy, and disability status). Under health reform, Illinois will expand the Medicaid program so that it no longer has categorical eligibility requirements. The federal government will cover 100% of the state’s cost for new enrollees under expanded Medicaid for the first three years, and then 90% for subsequent years.
We, as concerned citizens of Illinois, need to keep the pressure on our state legislators (especially in the voting booth!) and Governor Quinn to ensure the success of the Illinois Health Benefits Exchange and the expansion of Medicaid.
Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security and Veterans’ Benefits Under Attack
Health reform is not the only major program that candidates have set their sights on in campaigning for the November elections. In addition to the threats to repeal the health reform law, some candidates are running on the platform of dismantling Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security (including Veterans’ benefits) as we know it. Candidates are proposing to dismantle Medicaid by turning it into a block grant program, where states would only get set amounts of money, despite state need. The Medicare proposals include turning Medicare into a voucher program, where seniors would be on their own to purchase private health insurance, even if their voucher does not meet the costs of that insurance. And many candidates are threatening to cut Social Security and Veterans’ benefits by changing the calculations for cost-of-living increases or raising the retirement age for Social Security.
Voters must be educated about candidates and the proposals they are campaigning on for these major programs that provide millions of Americans with health care and financial security.
What CCHCC is Doing, and How You Can Help
While candidates continue to heat up their campaigns as we approach the November elections, CCHCC will be do our part to educate the voting public and provide clear, unbiased information to empower voters as you head to the polls. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we have to follow strict rules that require any educational materials and actions during the election season remain non-partisan and we are not allowed to endorse any candidates or support one political party over another.
However, we all still have a role to play in the political process that could decide the fate of so many vital social programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Affordable Care Act. We will NOT stand idly by as politicians and candidates running for election continue to campaign on a platform to fully repeal health reform and completely dismantle Medicare and Social Security. Champaign County Health Care Consumers still has a right to participate in the democratic process and ensure that you, the voters, fully utilize your rights as a citizen to cast a well-informed vote on November 6.
CCHCC’s Health Care Voter Activities: We want to make sure we turn out “health care voters” to the November elections! These are the activities we are doing from now through November:
Voter Registration. We have conducted a voter registration training for 20 new deputy registrars and we are ready to hold voter registration drives to register new voters!
Voter Education on New State and Congressional Districts. CCHCC will have Ballot Guides for each district in the Champaign County area that will include a list of the candidates on your ballot as well as a map of your 2012 state and Congressional district. If you live outside East Central Illinois, you can go to www.votesmart.org or call 1-888-VOTE-SMART (1-888-868-3762) and provide your home address to receive a list of candidates running for election in your state and Congressional districts.
Candidate Surveys and Voter Guide. CCHCC is currently surveying the state and Congressional candidates in the Champaign County area to get their positions on issues that we feel are key to the outcome of the election as well as your choice at the polls. We will develop a Voter Guide with a comparison of each candidate’s responses to our survey, which will be available prior to Election Day so you can base your vote on sound and balanced information.
Get Out and Vote! Support Our Efforts!
The health reform law has faced major obstacles and is still moving forward, but the November election may be the greatest hurdle yet. I hope you will join CCHCC in our efforts to mobilize health care voters.
We stand by our founding premise that meaningful reforms of the health care system can only take place when consumers are active in the decision-making process. Please join us in the fight to protect health reform, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security! To let us know how you would like to support our efforts or get involved, please read on. Every single vote counts so make sure to get out and be a health care voter on November 9.
Please help support CCHCC’s work to get-out-the-vote to protect health care and Social Security this election season.
1. Health care gets my vote!
2. I would like to volunteer with CCHCC!
3. I want to take action to protect health care!
· Add me to CCHCC’s email list.
· I will “Like” CCHCC on Facebook at facebook.com/HealthCareconsumers
4. I need help or want more information through the CCHCC Hotline!