Earlier this month, President Obama paid a visit to Wisconsin to deliver some exciting news as we approach the sixth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passing Congress and being signed into law by the President.
Because of the health care reform that we fought for, 20 million more Americans – including 6 million young people – now have high quality health coverage. That means nearly 240,000 individuals across Wisconsin signed up for affordable coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplace – a 16 percent increase from one year ago.
In his visit to our state, the President celebrated Milwaukee winning the White House’s “Healthy Communities Challenge.” Among 20 communities across the country that competed to enroll the most uninsured residents during the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period for health coverage in 2016, Milwaukee finished first.
On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, putting in place comprehensive reforms that improve access to affordable health coverage for everyone and protect consumers from abusive insurance company practices. Today, the ACA is working for Wisconsin and the country.
Today, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against children based on pre-existing medical conditions. Young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance plans up to age 26. Women can no longer be charged more for their insurance than men.
Out-of-pocket costs have been eliminated for preventive services like immunizations, certain cancer screenings, contraception, reproductive counseling, obesity screening and behavioral assessments for children. This coverage is guaranteed for more than 137 million Americans, including 55 million women.
In addition, seniors on Medicare receive free preventive care and relief in prescription drug costs. Out-of-pocket costs have been eliminated for 39 million Medicare beneficiaries for preventive services like cancer screenings, bone-mass measurements, annual physicals and smoking cessation programs. The ACA also phases out the “donut hole” coverage gap for nearly 10.7 million Medicare prescription drug beneficiaries, who have saved an average of $1,945 per beneficiary.
These aren’t just numbers on a page. It’s about the real people – real Wisconsinites – who are realizing the benefits of this law with access to affordable, high-quality health coverage every day. And since the ACA was signed into law almost six years ago, we’ve seen significant gains in previously underserved communities, especially in communities of color.
Thanks to the ACA, the uninsured rate for African-Americans has dropped by more than 50 percent — the equivalent of three million newly insured people. These strides are particularly important given the unique health challenges, and historic and structural barriers to health care often faced in many African-American communities. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, African-Americans have the highest cancer mortality rate of any ethnic group, a lower average life expectancy than white Americans, along with higher rates of infant mortality and chronic disease.
The ACA is breaking down many of these health barriers the African-American community has faced. They now have access to expanded preventive services such as mammograms, well-child visits and flu shots with no out-of-pocket costs. And with the investment of $11 billion in community health centers nationwide, the ACA is dramatically expanding access to quality care facilities in many African-American neighborhoods. In fact, 16 health centers in Wisconsin operate 95 sites, providing preventive and primary health care services to almost 50,000 African-Americans.
This important progress only underscores the idea that the people of Wisconsin deserve to know their coverage will be there when they need it most. Unfortunately, politicians in Washington and Wisconsin are working hard to undermine, defund and repeal health care reforms that have benfitted millions of Americans.
Instead of working to ensure more people are able to access high quality, affordable health coverage, Governor Scott Walker refused a federal investment in our BadgerCare program, kicked 63,000 people off of their BadgerCare coverage and created a coverage gap for 27,000 people.
In December, Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) released updated projections outlining how the state of Wisconsin could have saved over $1 billion in taxpayer money over six years by accepting available federal dollars to expand Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program through the ACA. According to their projections, about 83,000 additional Wisconsinites would gain coverage through full expansion of BadgerCare.
While speaking in Milwaukee, President Obama addressed Governor Walker’s misguided decisions and said, “He could join 31 other governors who are taking this option — which, by the way, actually would save money. He’s denying Wisconsinites their ticket to health insurance — and it’s political.”
I couldn’t agree more. Instead of clinging to his plan to cover fewer people at a higher cost to Wisconsin taxpayers, it is my hope Governor Walker will one day put people over partisan politics and accept a federal investment in our BadgerCare program.
And it is my hope that our state’s senior senator and the Speaker of the House will drop their dangerous repeal efforts that would only increase the deficit, raise health care taxes and premiums on families and expand the number of uninsured people in Wisconsin and our country.
It is time to continue building on the success we’ve seen and focus on making health care reforms work even better. In the United States of America, health care should be a right guaranteed to all, not a privilege reserved for the few. That is what President Obama has fought for and it is what I have fought for, and will continue to fight for, as we move the Affordable Care Act forward.