Health care reform will benefit individual Californians and small businesses

My colleagues and I in the Assembly were very proud of the President and Congressional Democrats for passing the Affordable Care Act and fighting to ensure that Americans have access to quality, affordable, and comprehensive health care.  We also applauded the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the Act.

Throughout this past year I’ve spent a lot of time listening to middle class families talking about the financial squeeze they are in.  

While Assembly Democrats have been looking at different ways to help reduce that squeeze, one positive thing we have heard over and over again is the relief middle class families feel that, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, they can keep their children insured until age 26.  That, along with parents being grateful they no longer have to fear that they won’t be able to insure their children because of preexisting conditions, has been one of the most tangible public responses to health care reform.

This anecdotal information is also borne out in public polling we’ve seen.  According to a recent poll sponsored by the Wellness Foundation, most California voters support the health care reforms brought about through the Affordable Care Act.

As the author of legislation establishing California’s Health Benefit Exchange, I am committed to continuing our work to reform California’s healthcare system to ensure that Californians can get coverage that is comprehensive and affordable. 

In addition to those provisions preventing denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, and allowing young Californians to stay on their parents’ insurance, the ACA will help our economy as well, by helping small businesses obtain health insurance for their employees.  Federal health care tax credits are already available to small businesses and the health Exchange will offer products for small employers.

Additionally, individuals who will now be required to have health coverage will have access to preventive and appropriate health care services which can help prevent more serious health conditions.  By having access to preventive and primary care we can keep people out of the emergency rooms and manage chronic conditions appropriately.  This will address one of the single largest factors in driving up the skyrocketing cost of healthcare, and, by broadening the pool of insured, we can lower costs for consumers and business. 

Our state was the first to implement the health Exchange provision of the Affordable Care Act.  This will provide Californians a single point of entry – a one-stop shop – to the health insurance market so that small employers and individuals can select among affordable, comprehensive coverage that is easily comparable.   About two million Californians will get access to subsidies to help them buy insurance through the exchange, and healthcare insurance companies will be forced to compete, and thus lower the price of coverage for consumers. 

There are still some steps that that will need to be taken by the Legislature and Governor before additional elements of the Affordable Care Act kick-in in California in 2014.   By addressing those issues in Special Session next year, we can ensure that legislative solutions take effect in a more timely manner, without having to wait until January 1 of the following year.  That will give us sufficient time to resolve outstanding issues before full implementation is slated to move forward.

California has been the national leader in implementing federal healthcare reform, and we will continue to move full-speed ahead to ensure that every person in our state has the quality, affordable healthcare they deserve.

Ed’s Note: John A. Pérez is the speaker of the state Assembly.

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