In 1999, I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Thankfully, I was able to navigate the system and am in my eleventh year of remission. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are not as lucky. The federal government spends an extraordinary amount of money on healthcare. Individuals and families were often left without coverage due to “pre-existing conditions,” administrative errors, and clauses that allowed companies to suddenly discontinue coverage. The system was broken.
In 2010, the federal government finally took action to solve this growing crisis. On March 23, America will mark the second anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. The protections established in this law represent the fundamental obligation of our government to ensure fair treatment of all of its citizens. For too long, corporate healthcare profits have outweighed the medical needs of those they covered, and the Affordable Care Act has already started to resolve these problems.
In 2000, I delivered a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention that addressed our country’s dire need for healthcare reform. While I acknowledge some criticisms of the Affordable Care Act, a reform of this scope represents one of the single most important advances in healthcare reform in fifty years. The provisions enacted through this law will create an environment that expands accessibility to healthcare, provides basic patient protections, and penalizes abusive corporate practices.
Since its enactment, the Affordable Care Act has already expanded and enhanced coverage for millions of Americans; just last year the ACA restored coverage to nearly 800 New Jersey residents who had been dropped due to pre-existing conditions. The days of dropping coverage for the terminally ill and denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions are behind us. Greater shares of premiums will be reinvested into providing better care instead of corporate bonuses and lobbying efforts. These measures are helping us fulfill our moral duty to help our fellow citizens when they are most in need.
Over the next two years, as more provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect, the reforms will benefit each American in a variety of ways. There will be a reduction in overall out-of-pocket healthcare costs to individuals, and new bans on lifetime dollar limits on benefits - freeing cancer patients and survivors like myself from having to worry about rationing health care. At least 3 million individuals have already been freed of lifetime limits on their health care. Fewer patients will need to rely on emergency rooms for primary care and millions of previously uninsured citizens will gain access to comprehensive and affordable care via a benefits exchange.
In fact, I am proud to have joined my colleagues as a primary sponsor of Assembly Bill 1081, New Jersey’s Health Benefit Exchange Act, which will allow individuals, families and small employers to browse and purchase coverage plans that best suits their own individual health needs. It is critically important that state and local government bolster and enhance the federal government’s efforts to reform our healthcare system.
The ability of every citizen to see a doctor, receive quality treatment, and overcome illnesses are fundamental American rights. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is designed to ensure that these rights are preserved for us and for all future generations of Americans.
Very Truly Yours,
Ruben J. Ramos, Jr.