My family's health scare taught me the value of affordable health care

I learned what it feels like to have health insurance the day my mother was rushed to the hospital. I remember our fear and worry. I remember my father moving swiftly, decisively. And I remember that there was no question or hesitation to take my mother to the hospital. My father, a construction worker with a sixth-grade education, had health insurance through his union, Laborers' Local 185 in Northern California. It meant we didn't have to make a choice between my mother's health and our family's financial stability. Growing up, my family didn't have much, but we did have access to health care -- and importantly, the peace of mind that comes with it.

Decades on, the memories of my mother's health scare are still vivid in my mind. I'm reminded of how different her outcomes would have been if she had not been insured. Back then, before health care reform, I remember a country where a person could be denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition such as cancer, asthma or diabetes. I remember a country where if you were lucky enough to be able to purchase individual health insurance, you faced lifetime limits on the total dollar amount your insurance would cover, leaving families facing bankruptcy once they reached the cap. And I remember a country where millions of seniors struggled with impossible choices to pay for their prescription drugs. For millions of American families who experienced a health scare like mine, they had to think twice before visiting a doctor. There was no dignity without the security that health insurance provides.

Today, thanks to the Obama-Biden Administration and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a new generation of Americans is coming of age in a different country than the one many of us remember growing up in. Now, we live in a country where Americans with a preexisting condition -- up to 133 million, including 17 million children -- are protected from being denied coverage, where annual or lifetime limits on insurance coverage are outlawed, where nearly 12 million people with Medicare have saved over $26 billion on prescription drugs due to the ACA, and where 39 states -- including DC -- have adopted the ACA's Medicaid expansion.

Thanks to the ACA, more than 18 million Americans have gained the freedom from worry that comes with having comprehensive health coverage.

Last month, this country took another transformative step forward when President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law -- the largest expansion of health coverage since the ACA. Like President Biden, I too believe that health care is a right and not a privilege. Because of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), we are moving closer to making that belief a reality.

Beginning April 1, Americans can take advantage of significant additional savings to access quality, affordable health coverage through thanks to changes made by the ARP. An average of three out of five eligible uninsured Americans can access $0 plans and an average of four out of five current consumers will be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month, after advance payments of tax credits. Under the ARP, we estimate that the availability of zero-premium plans has increased by 19 percentage points in this population and low-premium plans by 16 percentage points. What's more, the ARP reduced the expected individual contribution of household income toward benchmark plan premiums to zero percent for applicable taxpayers with income between 100 and 150% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The ARP is a bold start: It takes major strides toward our goal to expand access to affordable care and guarantee health security for every American -- but there is still work to be done. A healthy community is the backbone of America, and we continue to work towards that healthy, strong infrastructure. That's why this administration is working to expand access to healthy workplaces, opportunities to receive care at home, and connecting neighborhoods as part of the American Jobs Plan.

I remember a lot from my youth -- working construction with my father under the sweltering sun, spending happy days visiting national parks with my family, and learning to make do with what we had. I also remember the security and relief that comes with health coverage -- knowing that my mom was going to get the care she needed. That's what the US Department of Health & Human Services is working toward -- so all Americans can have quality, affordable health care, and the same dignity and peace of mind that my family enjoyed.

Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)
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