Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) held a roundtable discussion with group of health care professionals, administrators and advocates at the Shore Medical Pavilion in Queen Anne’s County on Friday on the progress of the Affordable Care Act and the need to increase enrollment to make the system more cost effective.
“Put me down on the side that is glad Congress passed the ACA,” Cardin said. “I’m proud that millions of Americans have been able to be helped by it.”
<em>In the video below, Cardin discusses the benefits of the ACA and the need for greater enrollment as a vehicle to make the system more efficient.</em>
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Cardin said he’s received hundreds of letters from constituents who’ve benefitted from the law since it was enacted four years ago.
“[These] are people who no longer have to worry about pre-existing conditions,” Cardin said. “The pre-existing conditions could have been the fact that you’re a woman, could have been the fact that you gave birth, could have been the fact that you’re victim of spousal abuse, could have been that you had asthma. All those were pre-existing conditions, and you didn’t have full coverage.”
<em>In the video below, Cardin reads a letter from Kelly, a Maryland resident who after many years was finally able to afford insurance and manage her health care with “dignity.”</em>
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Cardin said medical bills would no longer be cause of financial hardship.
“Medical bills were the leading cause of bankruptcy and that’s going to become a thing of the past,” Cardin said. “We now have affordable options. People can now afford to buy health insurance and you’re getting a quality product.”
Cardin also said the culture of preventative care is changing American health care from a “sick” system to a “heal care” system that “keeps people healthy.”
Medicare has been extended by over a decade under the ACA with the elimination of the “donut whole,” Cardin said. “So many seniors had to decide whether they could literally afford their prescriptions or had to cut a pill in half because they couldn’t afford it.”
Many of the benefits of the law are not controversial when you talk to people one-on-one, like parents who want to keep their adult age children insured until they’re 26 and the elimination the lifetime cap on coverage when you get sick, Cardin said.
He acknowledged the problems with the rollout of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange but said enrollment so far of six million nationally had approached the March 31 target of seven million.
“The rollout of the exchanges was a disaster, I acknowledge that, it was terrible, no excuse for it,” he said. “We had an objective to get seven million enrolled in private insurance by the end of March [and] we’re at six million. We’re moving along and we’re getting people enrolled nationwide.”
He said while Medicaid enrollees had reached 250,000 in Maryland but only 50,000 Marylanders had been enrolled in private insurance.
“We can do a lot better,” Cardin said. “When we say we’re not doing well, we’re sorry that we’re not going to have more people insured.”
“The system is going to work, it’s going to work a lot better than it did in the past, and next year we’ll have a lot more people in the system, and we will get to that point where the overwhelming majority are in the system and we can restructure the healthcare system and make it more cost effective.”