Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Numbers show health reform is working

In the long running television series, “The West Wing,” President Josiah Bartlet exclaims, “If you want to convince me of something, show me numbers.” Well, I’ve seen the numbers on the historic health insurance reform law passed last year and they show how it’s making a difference in the lives of people across the Central Coast and this country.

That’s why, when the new leadership of Congress rushes a bill to the floor this week to repeal the law, I’ll be voting “no.”

Health care reform guarantees that tens of millions of Americans without coverage will soon get it. But the law is especially important for the millions of people already covered because it guarantees that affordable insurance will be there when you need it most.

For example, the law has already banned the odious insurance practice of refusing coverage to children with so-called “pre-existing conditions.” In the next few years, that protection will apply to all adults as well.

In the meantime, states have set up plans for individuals who have already been turned away by insurance companies. And insurance companies are now banned from imposing lifetime limits to restrict how much health care you can receive under their plans.

We all know people who are already benefitting from this new law. But I was particularly moved when I recently read in the paper about the Strong family of Santa Barbara.

At 6 months old, Bill and Victoria Strong’s daughter, Gwendolyn, was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare disease. Her care is extremely expensive, and before health care reform, the Strongs lived in constant fear that Gwendolyn would reach her individual policy’s lifetime limit and become uninsurable because of her pre-existing condition.

With the elimination of lifetime caps, the Strong family has been given peace of mind. Gwendolyn is guaranteed to receive the care she needs and their family is protected from almost certain bankruptcy.

Their story could be the story of any family hit by an unexpected illness or tragic accident. Preparing for the unexpected is why we buy insurance in the first place. Repealing the health reform law would take that security away from the Strongs and every other family.

The new law already provides a host of other important protections. For example, it requires insurers to cover basic preventive care such as mammograms and colonoscopies in new private plans (without co-pays) to spot illnesses earlier when treatment is often more effective and less costly.

The new law means that adults up to age 26 can be covered by their parents’ plan. Nearly 200,000 young people in California have insurance coverage because of this provision and more are signing up every day.

The health reform law means your insurance cannot be cancelled if you or a loved one receive a difficult and costly diagnosis such as cancer. Repeal would take away this protection and put 2.7 million Californians at risk of losing coverage.

The numbers also tell the story of how the new health care law is already benefitting California’s seniors and small businesses.

For example, in 2010, nearly 270,000 California seniors received a tax-free, $250 rebate check to cover the cost of their prescriptions while in the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” coverage gap. And effective Jan. 1, the law started providing a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs for these seniors, as well as free annual physicals and preventative screenings for all Medicare beneficiaries. Repeal takes these benefits away immediately.

This past year, 80 percent of California small businesses with 25 or fewer employees were eligible for tax credits to help cover the cost of providing their workers with health insurance. Repealing the health care law eliminates this critical assistance for more than 456,000 Golden State small businesses, including many on the Central Coast.

The law also provides grants to help ensure continued health coverage for the retirees of more than 400 California employers. Repeal would endanger that coverage.

Finally, repealing health reform means higher federal deficits. The Congressional Budget Office has determined that repealing the law would increase federal deficits by $230 billion over the next 10 years.

The numbers don’t lie and they underscore the importance of this law to the lives of millions of Americans and our own friends and neighbors. This is why I will be voting against repealing this critically important new law.

Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, represents portions of San Luis Obispo County in Congress.