Delivering on health care
I don't expect the political debate about Obamacare to end anytime soon. Republicans in Congress are going to demonize it, run against it, do what they can to sabotage it.
But starting today, Americans will be able to see for themselves that the Affordable Care Act isn't actually about Washington politics. It's about regular people shopping for insurance they can finally afford, and purchasing security and peace of mind along with it.
President Obama and I took office in the middle of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. I still remember the turmoil and uncertainty of those early days - and the president's determination to act swiftly to stop the hemorrhaging. I remember something else especially clearly: President Obama's insistence that we fix America's broken health-care system.
He reminded the skeptics that trouble for the middle class had started long before the economic crisis, and would continue long after economic recovery unless we did something about our health-care system. He reminded them of the stories he'd heard when he ran for president - of folks seeing their premiums rising while their wages stagnated, of insurance companies refusing to cover children born with chronic diseases, of cancer patients hitting their lifetime limits in the first weeks of chemotherapy.
In 2010, because of his perseverance, we passed the Affordable Care Act. Some of its provisions took effect soon after, with dramatic results.
More than 100 million Americans have taken advantage of free preventive care, like mammograms and blood pressure screenings. Three million young adults under 26 have gained coverage by staying on their parents' plans. Millions of seniors on Medicare have saved hundreds of dollars on their prescriptions. And millions of Americans have gotten a rebate from insurance companies that spent too much on overhead.
And now, the most significant part of Obamacare is about to begin. As of today, tens of millions of Americans who don't have health insurance because they can't afford it - or have been denied access to it - will finally be able to buy a health-care plan they can afford.
Here's how it's going to work:
Starting today, you can go to HealthCare.gov, where you'll be able to comparison shop for health-insurance plans. It's simple: You enter some basic information about yourself, like your age and income, and right away you'll see a list of plans. You'll be able to clearly see what each plan covers and how much it'll cost you. And you'll find out if you qualify for tax credits that will lower your premium cost. Pick the option that works best for you, sign up, and you're done.
It used to be that buying insurance was a nightmare, especially if you had been sick before. Some people couldn't find a single insurance company that would offer them a plan. For others, the only options were wildly expensive. Very few people could comparison shop, so you never knew if you were getting the best deal.
After today, it'll never be that way again. Companies won't be able to use your medical history to determine how much to charge you. They won't be able to charge you more just because you're a woman. They'll have to be transparent about what they're offering and compete against each other. This will all make a world of difference.
In fact, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, we now know that in the 36 states that have provided data, the average American can choose from 53 plans. Nearly 6 in 10 eligible Americans without insurance today will pay $100 a month or less for their health insurance.
In Pennsylvania, the average 27-year-old making $25,000 could get covered for just $119. A family of four making $50,000 a year could get covered for as little as $209 a month. All of this begins today.
The president never yielded during the health-care debate. He never forgot why we ran, who we'd come to serve, and mostly, the security and dignity that we could provide the middle class if we were willing to fight. And so we did.
We fought to bring affordable health care to all Americans, and because of the president's insistence - and persistence - we are delivering.
Joe Biden is vice president of the United States. Contact him via www.whitehouse.gov/contact.