New Jersey is already reaping benefits of health-care reform law

Dan Benson is vice chair of the NJ Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. He’s from Hamilton and represents the 14th Legislative District. This is cross-posted with Times of Trenton.

– promoted by Rosi

Access to quality health care for working-class New Jerseyans is a top priority for my Democratic colleagues in the Legislature and me, which is why progress on this issue is good news for hard-working families.

Recently, the Legislature approved a bill implementing health exchanges for our state as required by the federal Affordable Care Act.

This is likely to be the opening salvo in a lengthy discussion in New Jersey about how our state implements federal health-care reform to cover nearly 1 million uninsured residents.

However, I think it’s important to take a look back over the last two years since the federal law was adopted and see how President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is already helping New Jersey families. While there has been much discussion over the requirement that everyone obtain health insurance, the state health exchanges and the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court challenge, many of the very popular provisions of the new health-care reform law took effect immediately and are too often overlooked or forgotten in the debate.

Extending insurance to millions of young Americans, removing lifetime limits on health benefits, covering pre-existing conditions, closing the prescription “donut hole” for senior citizens, free preventative care and reducing Medicare fraud are just some of the biggest successes of the new health-care law.

In New Jersey alone, more than 65,000 residents under the age of 26 received coverage because of the new health-care law.

More than 1.5 million New Jersey residents with private insurance now can receive preventative services without co-pays or deductibles. Our state has also received $84 million in grants in areas such as preventative health, support for community health centers, medical and health-care training and work force development, as well as fraud detection and prevention.

Senior citizens faced with rising prescription costs and in need of better preventative care have also received significant help these past two years. Thanks to the new health-care law, in 2010, more than 130,000 residents who have Medicare received a $250 rebate to cover their prescription costs. In 2011, more than 125,000 New Jersey senior citizens with Medicare saw an average savings of $756, for a total savings of more than $95 million. These savings will continue to grow each year until 2020, when the Medicare prescription “donut hole” is closed. Plus, in 2011 alone, more than 980,000 senior citizens in New Jersey received free preventative services – such as mammograms and colonoscopies -or a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. Finally, according to Business Week magazine, senior citizens who have Medicare Advantage saw their premiums decrease by 7 percent over the last year, while enrollment is up nationwide by 10 percent.

Simply put, the new health-care law provides working families and senior citizens the protections and security they need during these uncertain economic times.

Insurance companies can no longer bend the rules and increase their profits by dropping coverage when a person gets sick or pass on high medical costs due to an annual or lifetime limit.

Soon, insurance companies will also no longer be able to deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition. Because of many of the new federal health-care law’s protections, New Jersey residents can have peace of mind knowing that if they lose their job or simply seek to change jobs, they don’t have to also lose their health coverage.

By investing in our state’s and our nation’s health, we can reduce rising health-care costs and ensure that the next medical emergency a family faces doesn’t have to be a financial emergency, as well.

Health reform is already making a difference for the people of New Jersey. Regardless of what the upcoming Supreme Court challenge may bring, I hope we can all agree that we must fight to preserve these successes achieved under the new health-care law and work together to find the most appropriate way for New Jersey to reduce the numbers of uninsured in our state.

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