The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is already making an impact, including for people who live in rural America. That was the message from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today on the second anniversary of the enactment of the federal health-care reform law.
In a teleconference, Vilsack noted several pieces of the law that are benefitting people, including the 2.5 million young adults who have insurance coverage because parents can keep them on their plan up to age 26. "That's providing a degree of comfort to moms and dads," he said.
The law has also helped 3.6 million seniors on Medicare, who saved $2.1 billion on their prescription drugs in 2011 because the law allowed them to get a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs. Vilsack said seniors saved an average of $600 last year and were also "able to get a number of services, including preventive services like mammograms, for free."
Under the law, insurance companies are now required to spend 80 percent of their premium dollars on "actual health care, not overhead," Vilsack said, and they are not allowed to increase their premiums by more than 10 percent without an explanation. Children who were previously denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions can no longer denied, as per the law's mandate, and "in a couple of years that will extend to all people," Vilsack said. And thousands of new primary-care doctors and nurses are being encouraged to practice in rural areas and will receive higher payments.
Vilsack said his Department of Agriculture is working to improve the rural health-care landscape, through a joint effort with the USDA Rural Development division and the Department for Health and Human Services. In the past three years, Vilsack said 730 counties have received grants so they can "embrace telemedicine." Nearly 600 health-care facilities in rural communities have received money to fund equipment like CT scans, MRIs, ultrasound and lab equipment, Vilsack said. And rural citizens can now get care from a hospital outside their health plan's network when there is no time to get to a hospital that is farther away.
"No one should have to go without health care because of where they live, and for too long, rural Americans have been getting the short end of the health-care stick," he said. "The Affordable Care Act is helping millions of young people access health care, strengthening Medicare, and training thousands of new doctors to serve rural areas to give middle-class families the health security they deserve." (Read more)