Celebrating the First Year of the Patient’s Bill of Rights
By Richard Sorian, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs
One year ago today, the Affordable Care Act’s Patient’s Bill of Rights took effect and earlier this week, we got some great news: one million more young adults gained health insurance in the last year thanks to health reform. But young adults aren’t the only ones benefitting from the new law. Today, we are releasing a special report detailing the many benefits and improvements in the health care system that have happened since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama. The report discusses how the law is helping to give hard working families the security they deserve and the reforms in the Affordable Care Act that hold insurance companies more accountable and strengthen Medicare.
Let’s look at how the health law is helping individuals, families and businesses across the country:
The Affordable Care Act’s Patient’s Bill of Rights, which has now been in place for a full year, made it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.
Read Dawn’s story about her son’s new access to coverage, even with a pre-existing condition:
Eight year old Wesley and his mother Dawn know firsthand how important these provisions are. Wesley, who has an eye condition requiring frequent surgery, has coverage without exclusions for the first time in years. His mother Dawn was so used to seeing denials and exclusions when she tried to find coverage for her son that she could barely believe it when the insurance company explained this new access to coverage, all thanks to the health care law. Imagine the relief that comes from knowing that treatment for your sick child no longer has to threaten the dreams you’ve worked a lifetime to build for him.
The Affordable Care Act is also about expanding coverage. Young adults ages 18-25 – typically the most underinsured age group -- are benefiting from the provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows them to remain on their parent’s health plan until age 26. Among the million young people who gained coverage thanks to the health care law is Steven.
Read Steven’s story about how his sister was able to get insurance through their dad’s plan:
Steven from the University of Connecticut knows all too well how important this provision is for his sister and his family. In 2009, Steven’s sister came down with a very rare nerve disorder. She spent months in and out of the hospital while doctor’s tried to figure out what was wrong. Over time, doctors found a treatment requiring her to get injections that cost $50,000 each over the course of a year-and-a-half. Insurance was a big concern since Steven’s sister had recently graduated from college. The health care law protected Steven’s family. Under the new laws, both he and his sister are covered under their dad’s family plan until she is 26 years old and can’t be dropped from the plan because of the company does not want to cover the expenses. It’s been almost two years since Steven’s sister first got sick, but now she is back in school, working hard to earn her law degree and living in Boston.
Until last year, insurance companies could place an arbitrary cap on the total amount of coverage they provide in a person’s life as well as low annual limits on coverage. These dollar caps meant that people with serious illnesses like cancer found themselves suddenly without the coverage they had been counting on and paying for. Today, 102 million Americans whose health plan included lifetime dollar limits have seen their coverage expanded, and as many as 20,400 patients who would have otherwise hit a lifetime limit each year are instead getting treatment they need.
Read Paul’s story about not being limited by lifetime caps on insurance:
Because of his hemophilia, Paul Brayshaw of Virginia exhausted a $1 million lifetime limit in just three years; he was fortunate to find new insurance last time, but the new coverage still came with a $6 million cap. Now Paul knows he won’t ever have to worry about hitting a lifetime limit again. The law is also phasing out annual dollar limits on coverage.
The Affordable Care Act also gives states more authority to review and scrutinize unjustified premium increases. For example:
- Connecticut’s Insurance Department rejected a proposed 20 percent rate hike by one of the State’s major insurers.
- In August 2010, a major insurer in Massachusetts agreed to a significant reduction of proposed increases – less than 13 percent instead of the nearly 23 percent they initially requested.
- In 2010, Oregon disapproved health insurance premium requests of 10 percent, 18 percent, and 20 percent in the individual market.
- Rhode Island’s Insurance Commissioner used his rate review authority to reduce a proposed rate increase by a major insurer in that State from 7.9 percent to 1.9 percent.
- Nearly 30,000 North Dakotans saw a proposed increase of 23.7 percent cut to 14 percent following a public outcry.
- In 2010, Californians were saved from rate increases totaling as high as 87 percent after a California insurer withdrew its proposed increase after scrutiny by the State Insurance Commissioner.
These are just a few examples of Americans benefitting from the new law. In just a year, the Affordable Care Act has made the health care system better for millions of Americans. By cracking down on insurance industry abuses and making sure we are spending taxpayer dollars wisely in our health care programs, we are ushering in a new day for American consumers. We will continue to build on these reforms in the years to come, and look forward to 2014 when all Americans will have access to quality, affordable health insurance. We clearly have a lot to be excited about.
To view the report, please visit this page.