Standing Up for Quality and Affordable Health Care

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Posted November 12, 2010

This week, I had the opportunity to meet with consumer advocacy organizations from around the country that are working on the front lines every day on behalf of individuals and families as they seek quality, affordable health care.

As we implement the Affordable Care Act, we are working closely with States to help consumers take more control over their health care. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping States to crack down on unreasonable premium increases, provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, help consumers navigate their options and understand their rights, and lay the groundwork for state-based marketplaces where families and small businesses will be able to obtain coverage. These are just a few of the key areas where States are playing an essential role in helping to implement the Affordable Care Act.

Consumer organizations also play an important role in helping individuals and families better understand the benefits and opportunities available to them in the communities in which they live. And that’s why it is so important to receive feedback from those who are on the ground each day in the States, advocating on behalf of consumers.

On Wednesday, I met with representatives from:

Many of these consumer groups are long time advocates for the new rights, benefits and protections that are kicking in under the Affordable Care Act. Already, young adults are able to stay on their parents coverage until age 26, businesses are getting help providing their employees and early retirees with health coverage, and insurers are prohibited from denying coverage to children because of a pre-existing health condition or dropping coverage for Americans when they get sick just because they made an unintentional mistake on their paperwork. These protections end some of the worst health insurance industry abuses, and families across the nation are benefiting.

During our meeting, we also discussed the new options available to consumers under the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. People who are uninsured for at least six months because of a pre-existing condition are eligible for coverage through new Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans, and the new options will give current and future enrollees a greater number of coverage choices and allow people to select the plan that best meets their needs.

Another big item on the horizon is this year’s Medicare Open Enrollment period, which begins next week on November 15 and is a key opportunity for our seniors to gain important new benefits. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare is getting stronger.

The Open Enrollment period is an opportunity for seniors to begin comparing their current coverage and needs to the options available next year. The Affordable Care Act provides new benefits in 2011, including a 50% discount on brand name drugs if you hit the donut hole, a free annual wellness visit and no co-pays for recommended preventive services for most people with Medicare. (People with Medicare can learn more by reading their 2011 Medicare & You Handbook, the most important and reliable tool available. Updated information is now available at www.medicare.gov and by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.)

There’s a lot to do to get out the word on all these important milestones, and I look forward to continuing to work with the extraordinary organizations that support our efforts throughout the country to enable consumers to gain more control over their health care.