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What Parents Should Know About Health Insurance and the Affordable Care Act

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
March 28, 2014

In America, 5.7 million children do not have health insurance. That’s a scary number.

As a mother and a grandmother, I know the many worries that parents have about their children. We try to protect them from illness and accidents, but so much is beyond our control.

Far too many parents face another worry every day: They have not been able to afford insurance that protects their families. At the same time, they know that just one bad accident or illness could lead to devastating medical bills -- even a bankruptcy. No family should have to choose between their children’s prescriptions and the utility bill.

But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s a new day. Through the Health Insurance Marketplace, families across the nation have new options for affordable quality health coverage. You can compare plans and sign up for coverage at Help is also available by phone at 1-800-318-2596/TTY 1-885-889-4325, or in-person by going to

But don’t delay. Sign up today. Monday, March 31st, is your last chance to enroll in coverage for this year.

If you don’t sign up by Monday, March 31st, you’ll have to wait until November to enroll – and your coverage won’t begin until next year.

Already, 6 million Americans have enrolled in private health plans through the Marketplace, and more than 3 million young adults have gotten covered because the new law allows them to stay on their parents’ plan until their 26th birthday. Millions more have learned they’re eligible for Medicaid or have renewed their Medicaid coverage.

We know that parents can’t take good care of their children unless they also take care of themselves – and that includes preventive care to help moms and dads stay healthy and catch potential illnesses before they become more serious and costly.

So all Marketplace plans and most current plans must cover preventive services that are important for children and parents, including immunizations, prescriptions, maternity and newborn care, and mental health services – at no out-of-pocket charge. There are also new services –also at no additional charge-- for women, such as contraception, breastfeeding supplies, and domestic violence screening and counseling.

Many of the parents I’ve met, have told me how relieved they are that it is now against the law for insurers to deny them coverage or charge them more because someone in their family has a pre-existing condition. Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition!

You’ll find that insurance in the Marketplace is more affordable than you might think. Across the country, 6 out of 10 uninsured Americans can get covered for $100 or less – some a lot less. A family of four making $50,000 in Dallas, for example, can buy a plan for as little as $26 a month.

But the Affordable Care Act is about more than just a website. It’s about a family’s peace of mind and health security. It’s about new benefits and protections.

I can tell you that there is rarely a day that goes by when I don’t hear from someone who has gone two, three, four years – or, in some cases, their entire lives -- without insurance. Or who has discovered their family is seriously underinsured.

I met a nurse in Pittsburgh named Cathy Stoddart. When her baby son needed cardiac surgery, Cathy learned that she and her husband were underinsured – that is, their insurance did not cover much of the care their son needed to survive. So they did what any parent would do: They maxed out their policies and credit cards to save their child’s life

When it became clear that mounting medical bills were more than they could ever repay in several life times, Cathy and her husband filed for bankruptcy. As she said, “I’m a mom, and I wasn’t going to allow financial obstacles stand in the way of my son’s life.”

This should never happen to any family in America. But Cathy’s family isn’t unusual.

But because of the Affordable Care Act, families are now able to purchase quality health insurance that fits their needs and budget. Insurers can no longer cap annual or lifetime dollar limits on care – limits that can be easily breached by, for example, a child’s treatment for leukemia.

Parents finally can get the peace of mind and security they need and deserve for their children and themselves.

So like President Obama said, moms get your kids to sign up on Kids call your mom and walk her through the application. It’ll give her some peace of mind and she’ll appreciate hearing from you.

Content created by Assist. Sec./Public Affairs - Digital Communications Division
Content last reviewed on May 21, 2014