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Obama: Affordable Care Act offers security, ‘peace of mind’

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Excerpted from President Barack Obama’s prepared statements on the Affordable Care Act delivered from the East Room on May 10.

It’s now been more than three years since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act and I signed it into law. It’s been nearly a year since the Supreme Court upheld the law under the Constitution. And, by the way, six months ago, the American people went to the polls and decided to keep going in this direction. So the law is here to stay.

And those of us who believe that every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care have an obligation to now make sure that full implementation moves forward the way it needs to.

Basically, there are two main things that the American people need to know about this law and what it means. First, if you’re one of the nearly 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance  ­— whether it’s through your employer, or Medicare or Medicaid — you don’t have to do a thing.

This law already provides you with a wide array of new benefits, tough new consumer protections and stronger cost control measures than existed before the law passed. And those things are already in place, [things like] making sure that insurers can’t take advantage of you and making sure that your child can stay on your health insurance until they’re 27 years old.

Now, second, if you’re one of the tens of millions who don’t have health insurance, beginning this fall, you’ll finally be able to compare and buy quality, affordable private plans that work for you. That’s what you need to know. If you’ve already got health insurance, this has just enhanced it. And if you don’t, you’re going to be able to get it.

… And because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive, or drop your coverage if you get sick, or discriminate against children with preexisting conditions. And women now have access to free preventive care like checkups, and mammograms, and cancer screenings, so you can catch preventable illness on the front end. And that provision has already helped more than 70 million Americans with private insurance. That’s already happening. A lot of people don’t know it, but you’ve got those protections.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, young adults under the age of 26, as we talked about, are able to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan — and that’s already helping more than 6 million young adults.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, seniors on Medicare receive free checkups and preventive care with no co-pay or deductible, and get a discount on their prescription drugs. That has already saved over 6 million seniors more than $700 each [annually]. That’s already been happening. Seniors may not know that they’ve been getting $600 discounts, but it’s there.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, insurers now have to justify double-digit rate increases publicly, for everybody to see. And most states have new authority thanks to incentives under this law to reject unjustifiable rate increases. Insurers are now required to spend at least 80 percent of the money you pay in premiums on actual health care — not on profits, not on overhead, but on you. And if they fail to meet that target, they actually have to reimburse you — either with a rebate or lower premiums.

Millions of Americans discovered this last year — they opened an envelope from their insurance company that wasn’t a bill, it was a check. That’s already happened. A lot of people don’t know it, but that’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about.

Last week, as part of the law’s price transparency tools, we made public the prices that different hospitals charge you for most common services, so you can see if you’re getting what you pay for.

So here’s how this is going to work. We’re setting up a new online marketplace where, beginning October 1st, you can go online, or talk to organizations in every state that are going to have this set up, and you can then comparison shop an array of private health insurance plans. You can look at them side-by-side, just like you’d go online and compare cars. And because you’ll now be part of a new pool of millions of other Americans, part of this exchange, insurance companies will actually want to compete for your business the same way they compete for the business of a big company with a lot of employees.

So once these marketplaces are up and running, no one can be turned away from private insurance plans. Period. If you’re sick, you’ll finally have the same chance to buy quality, affordable health care as everybody else. If you can’t afford to buy private insurance, if it’s still too expensive, then you’re going to get help reducing your out-of-pocket premiums with the largest health care tax cut for working families and small businesses in our history.

So what does all this mean? It means that if you lose your job, or you change your job, or you start that new business, you’ll still be able to purchase quality, affordable care that’s yours — and you’ll have the security and peace of mind that comes with it.