Testimony January 2011 in Support of the Affordable Care Act

Testimony before the Missouri Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee opposing SR 27 and in support of the Affordable Care Act

Honorable Senators,

My name is Bernadette Gronborg and I am a resident of Festus, Missouri.

I’m proud to say that I serve on the Steering Committee of Missouri Health Care for All. MHCFA is a grassroots, non-partisan movement of faith and community leaders committed to securing quality, affordable health care for all Missourians. We have 129 organizations who have endorsed our Principles for a just health care system. In addition, we have more than 7,300 grassroots members. Missouri Health Care for All supports the Affordable Care Act.

Personally, I am a retired mother of four, grandmother of eight, and married forty three years to my high school sweetheart. As a citizen and a taxpayer in this great state, I strongly support the Affordable Care Act, and I’m here today to ask that Senate Resolution 27 be stopped.

Specifically, I’d like to address the important medical loss ratio (MLR) provision of the Affordable Care Act. As of this year, insurers in the individual market must spend 80% of premiums for medical care and quality improvement, and any shortfall must be refunded to consumers. This will make sure that we consumers get real value and real coverage for our health care insurance dollars.

My own personal insurance voyage is a case in point regarding insurance companies and how they obtain such previously unchecked profits. When I left my job in public library service, I used Cobra to extend my Group Health Care plan for the maximum number of months at a cost of nearly $600.00 per month. Near the end of my Cobra coverage, I applied for private insurance, believing that since I am a relatively healthy woman, I would have no trouble obtaining coverage. I was subsequently denied by several insurance companies, including Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I was denied for hypertension (high blood pressure) that has been under control for many years with minimal medication.

I finally sought and received coverage through AARP, in a plan provided to that group through Aetna. The only policy I could afford carries a $15,000 deductible. Please read this correctly, not $1,500, but $15,000. The policy lists a number of things that will not be covered, including anything related to hypertension, spinal issues, anything related to breast cancer (because my sister is a breast cancer survivor), and anything related to menopause. Since I’m post menopausal, I’m not sure what that really means and they have not been able to explain it.

I believe that this policy will cover any injuries related to my being struck broadside by an invading alien craft, but I’m not certain since the 80 page manual is not clearly written. To the point, my premiums for such excellent coverage have increased twice this year, even though I HAVE FILED NO CLAIMS AGAINST my insurance. There was a $40 premium increase in March and another this month. My current premium is $321.00 per month. The letter I received from Aetna in December gave “age increase” as a reason. In other words, I have not died and continue to grow older daily, to my current age of 63.

Health plan premiums have been on a steep rise for decades, and, not surprisingly, so have the record profits of the insurance companies. The medical loss ratio provision of the Affordable Care Act will help to guarantee that a much greater percentage of insurance company profits, profits made on the backs of the insured like myself, actually be spent on the insured and their health care costs.

Finally, much has been made about the results of the August election and the passage of Missouri Proposition C. Election results posted on the Missouri Secretary of State’s site the day after the election showed that only 22.9 percent (938,782 out of 4,104,834) of registered voters actually voted in that election. Only 16 percent (666,535 out of that 938,782) of registered voters passed Prop. C. The total “yes” votes were about 71 percent OF THOSE WHO VOTED. 16% of registered voters in the state is not a mandate for anything, let alone, SR 27, which can be seen as an attempt to play politics and pander to 16% of Missourians!

In a study* released recently by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, our state has now fallen to 39th in health rankings. This is a shameful state of affairs considering that the Missouri motto is “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law”.

I respectfully ask that you not play politics with our health care. Stop SR 27. I support the Affordable Care Act and ask that you allow full implementation of all its provisions.

* “How low can you go? Missouri ranks falls to 39th in health care rankings”, St. Louis Beacon,12/27/10.

My name is Barbara Richter and I am here to express my support for the Affordable Care Act of 2010. I am a member of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, Missouri Health Care For All, and a former business owner. I would like to talk today about the benefits of health reform for women.

  • Under the new law, women can no longer be charged more than men for the same health insurance. Currently, women pay 25 to 50% more than men of the same age for the same health insurance package.
  • Under the new law, insurance companies will have to offer health care that women need. Before health care reform, some insurance companies refused to cover pregnancy, women who had previously had a C-section, or been a survivor or domestic or sexual violence. Under the new law, health insurance companies won’t be able to do this.
  • Under the new law, new health insurance plans must cover preventive services for women such as mammograms and pap smears at no cost. Women will be able to go directly to their OB/GYN without a referral.
  • Under the new law, small businesses will receive assistance in the form of tax credits or subsidies to help them offer health insurance to their employees. Women are more likely than men to work for small businesses that often don’t offer health insurance. Businesses are already applying for these tax credits and getting the economic benefit immediately.

As a business owner, we employed 150 people in a manufacturing company and the majority of them were women. Because insurance companies charge more for health insurance for women, our premiums were higher than companies that didn’t employee as many women. These higher premiums made the cost of family coverage unaffordable for our employees. Consequently, although our employees were covered they were often not able to pay the additional premium to cover the cost of their families which left their children uninsured. The new law will equalize the cost for both men and women and not penalize those companies that employ a lot of women.

These benefits are just some of the advantages this new law will bring to women. I am firmly in favor of the Affordable Care Act and urge you to stop Senate Resolution 27 and support Missouri in implementing the Affordable Care Act.

My name is Jeanne Bubb and I have come to Jefferson City to express my strong support for the Affordable Care Act. I am a member of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, a member of Missouri Health Care for All, a senior citizen, and a Medicare recipient.

I strongly support The Affordable Care Act because it begins to close the “doughnut hole”. This is a tremendous benefit for myself, my husband, and all seniors on Medicare. My husband, for example, takes thirteen pills each day, and many are quite expensive. Because of the Affordable Care Act, beginning this year he will receive a 50% discount on his name brand prescriptions when he is in the “doughnut hole”. This discount, and the subsidies to follow in the coming years, will make it easier for my 78-year-old husband, who is still working, to retire.

Many seniors on low or moderate fixed incomes have been faced with the choice of either paying for food, shelter, or medications. Choosing not to take needed medications can and does result in disastrous and expensive health consequences. The reduced drug costs and the expanded part D low-income subsidies, offered in the Affordable Care Act, will make such a choice less likely, and improve the life and health of many seniors.

For the first time, the Affordable Care Act provides that seniors in Medicare will receive free annual exams. This is vitally important. Annual exams often uncover high blood pressure, lipid abnormalities, heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Treatment of these conditions in the early stages can prevent serious complications from developing. When you are on a fixed income, even a moderate one, it is difficult to come up with cost of an annual exam. Many seniors just skip it.

For Medicare, paying for the annual exam and preventing serious complications is cost-effective. For seniors, the annual exam and other preventive services made more available under the Act, can assure healthier aging and even be life saving.

Reducing drug costs and covering the cost of annual exams are, for me, two of the most important benefits of the Affordable Care Act. In the interest of brevity, I will only mention that I applaud other provisions of the law, such as the CLASS Act, the Elder Justice Act, and efforts to provide long-term assistance for seniors.

These benefits are crucial for me, my family, and all senior citizens. I urge you to reject Senate Resolution 27 and support the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Missouri.

My name is Mary Clemons and I am here to express my support for the Affordable Care Act of 2010. I am a senior citizen, a member of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice and Missouri Health Care For All. I would like to talk today about the benefits of the health reform bill for all citizens who care about Medicare dollars being spent on appropriate care for seniors and who are interested in fighting fraud in the Medicare system.

Currently we hear of schemes where Medicare is billed for services that were not provided and have even read about store front, sham durable medical equipment companies billing for equipment that was never needed, never ordered or ever delivered using stolen social security numbers of real people. The new law enhances oversight and enforcement activities.

Health care providers and suppliers participating in Medicare and Medicaid will be screened and subject to license checks. People working in the long-term care industry will be subject to new criminal background checks. These new provisions will prevent unscrupulous providers and medical equipment suppliers from having access to the Medicare or Medicaid programs.

The new law will strengthen transparency. Conflicts of interest between health care companies, drug manufacturers and physicians and hospitals will be made available on public websites. There will be new requirements for disclosing who really owns nursing homes to ensure that corporate or private homes be unable to provide substandard care.

The new law strengthens the ability to report and detect fraud in a timely manner to suspend payments to providers based on credible evidence. Criminal penalties for fraud will be increased. I am firmly in support the Affordable Care Act which will reduce fraud and increase transparency of services rendered to those on Medicare and Medicaid. I urge you to stop Senate Resolution 27 and support all of us who care about fiscal responsibility.