New hope for families with health insurance marketplace

Jennifer Bernstein

By Jennifer Bernstein

We are all too familiar with the fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is one of the most divisive issues facing our nation today. Case in point, the government shutdown that has ensued because ACA wasn’t defunded. 

But the truth remains that the law, if properly implemented and funded, will have a profound impact on the health and economic well-being of American families, businesses, and the economy. On Oct. 1, the Health Insurance Marketplace opened, allowing consumers to compare options based on price and benefits. Widespread enrollment in the Marketplace is essential to its success for all of us.

As the State Policy Advocacy Vice Chair of the National Council of Jewish Women, St. Louis Section, the ACA has been a key advocacy issue for me for several years.  However, it is one of a personal nature as well.  On March 27, 2009, my then 34-year-old husband was diagnosed with stage 3C colon cancer.  While I am extremely grateful that he is now four years cancer-free, the outrageous medical bills we faced were nothing short of astonishing.  And we were lucky; we could afford to pay these bills.  Although it has put a strain on our finances, we never had to choose between feeding our son and paying medical bills.  We never had to choose between paying our utility bill and paying for the $800 prescriptions.  Many other Americans are not so lucky.  

Since 2001, the average cost of a year of medical care has risen 113 percent. Until now, the combination of inadequate insurance coverage and skyrocketing costs was putting millions more Americans into serious risk. Since 2010, however, when the ACA became law, the landscape of illness has been changing, and dramatically.

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As the full implementation of the ACA moves forward, people will have access to care without jeopardizing economic security.  Having insurance means that if you or a family member gets sick, you won’t have to worry about medical bills or going bankrupt.  Nobody should have to take out a second mortgage because his or her child gets diagnosed with leukemia.  Nobody should have to work two or three jobs because their partner underwent treatment for a disease that they did not ask for. The availability of the Marketplace will put an end to these financial worries.

People will now be able to choose a plan that fits their budget, with plans available at different prices.  Those who meet certain financial criteria will be eligible for free or low-cost insurance, while others will receive financial aid to help purchase a plan.  In addition, individuals will be able to choose plans that cover their particular medical needs and health plans will be required to cover basic care.  This includes doctor visits, prenatal and maternity care, emergency room visits, hospital stays, and mental healthcare and prescription drugs (including birth control without co-pays).  Enrollment will be user friendly. Even as someone who is not known for her computer literacy, I have found the online system very easy to use.  There will also be live support to help consumers choose the plan that fits their families’ needs.

The ACA will offer affordable coverage options, support for women, children and families’ health and well-being and will be an easier system to navigate, with help if you need it:  You will be able to get help choosing the plan that is best for you.  It will also allow people like my husband, those with pre-existing conditions, to have the security of being insured. But it will only be of help to those who enroll. October 1 began a new era in our country’s history – one in which we finally look after the uninsured.