Forty-four years ago, Democrats made history by creating Medicare to provide health insurance to America’s seniors.
The objections then were many of the same that we heard during this debate — it would create more bureaucracy and send us careening down the steep slope to socialism. Instead, we now have universal health coverage for America’s elderly, lower rates of poverty and greater peace of mind for older Americans.
Now that President Obama has signed the Affordable Health Care for America Act, we have reached an equally important milestone. I, along with many of my colleagues, stood up to the insurance companies to reform our health system by providing greater choice, lower costs and more competition.
Thirty-two million Americans will now have affordable health coverage, including an estimated 625,000 New Yorkers. Millions more will benefit from insurance reforms. No longer will people need to worry about losing their health coverage when they get sick, becoming uninsurable because of a pre-existing condition or going into bankruptcy if they or a loved one get sick. Young people will now be able to remain on their parents’ insurance until they reach 26 and insurance companies will no longer be able to charge co-payments for preventive care. Medicare is strengthened by closing the “donut hole,” which currently forces seniors to pay the full cost of their prescription drugs.
In my Congressional district alone, the bill will improve coverage for 424,000 residents. It will provide tax credits and other assistance to up to 144,000 families and 11,800 small businesses to help them pay for coverage. It will close the donut hole for 108,000 Medicare beneficiaries, and extend coverage to 24,500 uninsured Brooklyn and Queens residents. Furthermore, the bill will help my district by allowing 8,000 people with pre-existing conditions to obtain coverage, allowing 45,000 young New Yorkers to get health insurance through their parents’ plans, and reducing the cost of uncompensated care for health providers by $27 million a year.
The bill also lessens the financial burden of Medicaid on New York State and New York City. New York took a moral stand to cover more of our uninsured neighbors, family and friends through the Medicaid program. Now the city and State can expect to see billions in savings by an increased federal share for these and other residents who will be provided coverage through Medicaid.
Opponents of the bill will continue to spin this historic legislation as a terrible loss for the country, but this will ultimately prove to be a losing battle. There has been a lot of careless rhetoric and misinformation in this debate — from both sides of the aisle — but that doesn’t change one indisputable fact.
This bill isn’t a win for President Obama or a win for Democrats. It’s a win for New York, and a win for the American people.
Rep. Anthony Weiner is in his sixth term as a member of Congress. He represents Gerritsen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Mill Basin and parts of Queens.