More than 365 days, seven presidents and one signature later, America has health care reform that proponents say is the beginning step to providing all uninsured residents with affordable, quality care.
According to Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, this victory is a very personal one for the chief executive, whose mother battled with her health insurance as she lay dying.
Noting that one in four African Americans do not have regular health insurance but are more likely than any other group to suffer from life threatening illnesses such as cancer, Jarrett said there are many provisions in the legislation that will benefit the Black community. Some provisions that will go into effect immediately include:
* The ability for parents to keep their children on a health care plan until age 26.
* Preventing insurance companies from excluding children with pre-existing conditions from a medical plan.
* Providing seniors with $250 to help them pay for prescription drugs.
* Offering small businesses tax credits to help them provide health insurance for their employees.
Other provisions that will come online further down the road include:
* Establishment of a temporary high-risk pool for those currently without insurance. It will operate much like the California car insurance risk pool.
* Preventative care will be included as a free benefit in health plans.
* Using $11 billion to expand access to health care facilities by creating more community health centers, which is also expected to act as an economic stimulant. This is in addition to the $850 million contained in the Federal Recovery Act for clinics.
* Finally, through the National Health Service Corporation, forgiveness of loan repayments will be offered to physicians and other providers who work in community health centers and other health care facilities in underserved communities.
The centerpiece of the new health care reform is to create a new insurance exchange, where ideally, companies will compete to offer the plans and, as a result, prices will go down and affordability will go up. This will be coupled with increased monitoring of companies to insure that rates are not hiked, people are not arbitrarily dropped from coverage, and that individual can keep their health coverage when they move to another job. Additionally, eventually all people will be required to have insurance, and those who struggle to afford it may be eligible for subsidy.