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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving thanks this holiday season

Ron Pollack

Executive Director

Thanksgiving is a holiday where Americans gather together with their family and friends and, as the name implies, give thanks for everything they have. With the recession, it’s been difficult for many families to find the silver lining. Millions of hard-working Americans have been laid off, losing their income as well as health care benefits for themselves and their families.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, help is on the way; and not just for families who have fallen on hard times, but also for the neediest among us who have been neglected for years.

For example, did you know that in 34 states, the eligibility standard to qualify for the Medicaid program is below $18,310 for a family of three? And if you thought that was bad, consider this: In 17 of those states, the eligibility standard is below $9,000 for a family of three.

The common misconception is that if someone doesn’t make a lot of money, they still receive health care coverage, one way or another. But due to paltry eligibility standards, there are literally millions of Americans who barely make enough to get by and don’t earn enough to buy insurance on the individual market.

Medicaid is an important safety-net system for Americans across the country, but for those who don’t meet the eligibility standards, the system is meaningless.

The Affordable Care Act takes huge steps to make sure that these Americans don’t fall through the cracks and it will enable them to have access to quality, affordable care. The new law raises eligibility levels so that more people will be able to benefit from the Medicaid program and offers tax credits to those who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but don’t make enough to buy insurance through the private market.

Additionally, because of the Affordable Care Act, children can no longer be denied health care coverage because they’ve been sick. This means that children who have asthma and kids who have survived leukemia will be able to get coverage, regardless of the fact that they have a pre-existing condition.

Preventive services will now be offered free-of-charge for all new health plans. Now, a single mother who discovers a lump in her breast and has been putting off going to the doctor due to the cost will be able to get a mammogram for free. And vaccinations will be free for children up to age 18.

And for the first time ever, insurance companies can no longer retroactively take away your health insurance if you get sick.

Thanks to the members of Congress who stood up and voted for the American people and a healthier future, there is plenty to give thanks for this year.