"When people fall ill, we should help them get better. Most of us have experienced hard times. Many of us have gone without health coverage. When you lay all the heated rhetoric and legalese aside, the health care debate is really about what we're going to do when people get sick or injured. In America, we should take care of each other. It is irresponsible to force millions of Americans to delay treatment because they can't afford it, to live one broken leg or one chronic illness away from financial calamity."
– Congressman John Garamendi
Congressman Garamendi, California's Insurance Commissioner for eight years, believes every American deserves access to quality affordable health coverage. He voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to bring America one step closer to a country where everyone is protected by the shield of insurance. But he also understands that our work is not done to create a health care system that works for everyone, and like any law, the ACA can and should be improved.
The health care law establishes a powerful Patient's Bill of Rights. No longer will Americans with a pre-existing condition be denied health coverage. No longer will women be charged more for coverage. No longer will annual and lifetime limits on coverage bankrupt Americans with insurance.
Through the ACA's state exchanges and expansion of Medicaid/Medi-Cal and through the law's decision to allow young adults to stay on their parents' plans until their 26th birthday, approximately 12 million Americans have acquired insurance. This is a remarkable achievement.
The health law will finally close the prescription drug donut hole, so seniors can afford their medication. It also provides seniors with annual free preventative and wellness checkups, helping us diagnose and treat conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer early and enabling us to better detect the risk of stroke. This important provision is already improving the quality of life for seniors and reducing costs in Medicare.
Congressman Garamendi's experience as California's Insurance Commissioner has led him to propose these reforms to improve our existing health care laws:
- Expand mental and public health programs;
- Offer more federal support to build and expand community health clinics, particularly in underserved rural communities with limited health coverage options;
- Require insurance companies to contract with a sufficient number of providers if they sell insurance in rural areas;
- Increase wellness and preventative medicine in and beyond Medicare;
- Allow Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices to lower costs;
- Allow people on Medicare to import prescription drugs from Canada and other countries with robust safety standards, helping them find cheaper alternatives and compelling U.S. drug companies to no longer take our seniors for granted;
- Encourage more seniors and families to pursue in-home supportive services as an alternative to expensive nursing care paid for with Medicaid funds;
- Crack down on fraud in Medicare and Medicaid;
- Broaden nursing education in high schools and community colleges; and
- Accelerate loan forgiveness for medical students willing to devote their careers to primary care and family practice.
There are many good bipartisan ideas to improve our health care laws. Congressman Garamendi wants to see partisanship put aside and to work with Democrats and Republicans to strengthen and improve America's health care laws.