Giving Americans Control over Their Health Care

Monday marked the 90 day anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark new law that puts consumers, not health insurance companies, in charge of their own health care.  We have hit the ground running and, in just three months, significant progress has been made. 

To begin with, the new Patients’ Bill of Rights will end the worst insurance company abuses and provide the American people with the peace of mind that their insurance will be there when they need it most.  After meeting with representatives of the insurance industry yesterday, President Obama announced this historic regulation that will ban rescission of coverage, discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions, and lifetime limits, as well as place restrictions on annual limits.  For additional details about the Patient’s Bill of Rights, read the fact sheet or watch the webchat with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (195MB) | mp3 (19MB)

Another important step we’ve taken is to fulfill President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it.”  Last week, Secretary Sebelius and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced a new rule that protects the ability of individuals and businesses to keep their current plan.  It outlines conditions under which current plans can be ‘grandfathered’ into the system, minimizing market disruption and putting us all on the path toward the competitive, patient-centered market of the future.  By providing the stability and flexibility that families and businesses need, Americans will be able to make the choices that work best for them.  Learn more about the ‘grandfather’ rule.

You may be aware that increasing the number of primary care doctors and nurses is a key challenge to improving our health care system.  Expanding our health care workforce and supporting our nurses, doctors and other providers are top priorities in reforming our health care system. One of the most obvious and important benefits of a strong health care workforce is increased prevention of disease – which can often mean avoiding the costly treatment of a chronic condition.  During a speech last week at the American Nurses Association conference, President Obama announced investments in a new generation of primary caregivers. These efforts include increased resources for training, new incentives to physicians for providing primary care to patients, and support for caregivers who choose to enter primary care in underserved areas.

Even if you aren’t a senior, you probably know a few – and few things are more important to their health security than Medicare.  That’s why the President and Secretary Sebelius held a tele-town hall to talk directly with America’s seniors, where they addressed misinformation and answered detailed questions about Medicare.  It’s important for seniors to know that their guaranteed Medicare benefits are protected -- regardless of whether they are in Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage -- and seniors who have Medicare Advantage can choose to continue to be enrolled in the plan. 

In the coming years, seniors can also expect free preventive care services, including annual wellness visits and cancer screenings, and advanced patient-centered care, which will improve coordination of health care resources and ensure that they have access to support in their community.   Recently, we also announced the good news that seniors will begin receiving a $250 check from Medicare when they reach the ‘donut hole’ – a term used to describe the gap in Medicare Part D prescription coverage.  Until this gap is completely closed in 2020, we will continue to help seniors manage their health care costs. 

Finally, everyone likes saving money and we’ve made some big progress in this area.  The new legislation includes some of the strongest anti-health care fraud provisions in history and we will continue to act swiftly and aggressively to prevent fraud and take action against those who break the law.  Reductions in fraud and abuse will help extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund and provide taxpayers with cost savings. Ongoing activities include implementing tough new rules and sentences for criminals, enhancing screening and enrollment requirements, leveraging new tools and resources to prevent and fight fraud, and enhancing data-sharing among the agencies that are working to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse.

These accomplishments have brought about a number of important new benefits and each day, as we continue implementing the new law, we are working to give Americans greater control over their health care.  The Affordable Care Act is laying the foundation for greater stability and giving American families and businesses the flexibility they need to make the choices that work best for them. 

Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects

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