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‘ … a victory for people’

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‘ … a victory for people’

Barack Obama

 Earlier today, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — the name of the health care reform we passed two years ago.  In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed a fundamental principle that here in America — in the wealthiest nation on earth — no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin. 

I know there will be a lot of discussion today about the politics of all this, about who won and who lost.  That’s how these things tend to be viewed here in Washington.  But that discussion completely misses the point.  Whatever the politics, the decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.

And because this law has a direct impact on so many Americans, I want to take this opportunity to talk about exactly what it means for you. 

First, if you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance — this law will only make it more secure and more affordable.

Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive.  They can no longer discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions. They can no longer drop your coverage if you get sick.  They can no longer jack up your premiums without reason. 

They are required to provide free preventive care like check-ups and mammograms — a provision that’s already helped 54 million Americans with private insurance.  And by this August, nearly 13 million of you will receive a rebate from your insurance  company because it spent too much on things like administrative costs and CEO bonuses, and not enough on your health care. 

There’s more. Because of the Affordable Care Act, young adults under the age of 26 are able to stay on their parent’s health care plans — a provision that’s already helped 6 million young Americans.  And because of the Affordable Care Act, seniors receive a discount on their prescription drugs — a discount that’s already saved more than 5 million seniors on Medicare about $600 each.

All of this is happening because of the Affordable Care Act. These provisions provide common-sense protections for middle class families, and they enjoy broad popular support. 

Now, if you’re one of the 30 million Americans who don’t yet have health insurance, starting in 2014 this law will offer you an array of quality, affordable, private health insurance plans to choose from.

Each  state will take the lead in designing their own menu of options, and if states can come up with even better ways of covering more people at the same quality and cost, this law allows them to do that, too. 

 Once states set up these health insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against any American with a pre-existing health condition.  They won’t be able  to charge you more just because you’re a woman.  They won’t be able to bill you into bankruptcy. If you’re sick, you’ll finally have the same chance to get quality, affordable health care as everyone else.  And if you can’t afford the premiums, you’ll receive a credit that helps pay for it. 

Today, the Supreme Court also upheld the principle that people who can afford health insurance should take the responsibility to buy health insurance.  This is important for two reasons. 

First, when uninsured people who can afford coverage get sick, and show up at the emergency room for care, the rest of us end up paying for their care in the form of higher premiums. 

And second, if you ask insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions, but don’t require people who can afford it to buy their own insurance, some folks might wait until they’re sick to buy the care they need — which would also drive up everybody else’s premiums.

That’s why, even though I knew it wouldn’t be politically popular, and resisted the idea when I ran for this office, we ultimately included a provision in the Affordable Care Act that people who can afford to buy health insurance should take the responsibility to do so.  In fact, this idea has enjoyed support from members of both parties, including the current Republican nominee for President.

Still, I know the debate over this law has been divisive.  I respect the very real concerns that millions of Americans have shared.

The highest Court in the land has now spoken.  We will continue to implement this law.  But what we won’t do — what the country can’t afford to do — is re-fight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were. 

Today, I’m as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we’ll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward. 

 Excerpted from President Barack Obama’s statement on the U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.