March 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Affordable Care Act!

Brooke Lehmann & Janis Guerney   ·  Family Voices

This week marks an important birthday - the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed by President Obama one year ago, on March 23.  As a result of this law, individuals all over the country have had greater access to health insurance.  Some of the law's provisions are especially helpful to children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN) and their families.  Now, children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied insurance or coverage of services related to that condition.  Adult children up to age 26 now have access to their parents' insurance policies.  Lifetime insurance caps have been eliminated, and annual caps have been limited until 2014, when they will be eliminated too.  A number of consumer protections have been put in place through a patient's bill of rights.  In addition, every state now offers a special insurance plan for people who have been uninsured due to pre-existing conditions.  And now there is a federal website that provides information about all of a family's insurance options - www.healthcare.gov.

In 2014, many other provisions of the law will take effect.  There will be state-based insurance "exchanges," through which people can purchase insurance, and there will be subsidies to make coverage more affordable.  The state-federal Medicaid program will be expanded so that individuals with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level will be eligible for coverage but until then, states cannot change their current Medicaid eligibility standards or enrollment procedures under the so-called "maintenance-of-effort" (MOE) provision of the law.

Family Voices supports the ACA because of the benefits it brings to CYSHCN, including the extension of the Family-to-Family Health Information Centers program.  We have been involved in trying to ensure that the needs of CYSHCN and their families are adequately addressed as the law is being implemented.  We will continue to comment on proposed regulations and otherwise work to influence the implementation of the law.

What next?  There are some both inside and outside of Congress who would like to repeal the ACA, or significant parts of it. There are provisions currently under attach such as the MOE provision, as many governors see this provision as adding to their difficulties in working to balance budgets during a difficult economic period. Additionally, there is legislation being proposed in the House that would eliminate and replace all or some of the ACA. However, throughout all of this turmoil, Family Voices and other advocates around the country will be working hard to keep the ACA in place.

If you would like to let your Members of Congress know how you feel about the ACA, you can contact them through the Capitol switchboard at 202-225-3121 or through their websites at www.house.gov or www.senate.gov (where you can also find out who your Representative and Senators are).

If you would like to share a story about the impact of the ACA on your family, please click here.