By Rep. Darrio Melton
What would you think if you saw more than 600,000 people struggling to stay healthy? Your first guess might be that you’re in a third-world country or a war zone. Your first guess would probably not be that you’re in Alabama.
In Alabama alone, there are 642,738 people without health care coverage or access to basic health and wellness services.
I don’t want to see 642,738 people without healthcare coverage. I don’t want to see families struggling to pay a mortgage and medical bills. I don’t want to see young people without coverage because their jobs don’t offer health care benefits. I don’t want to see senior citizens choosing between prescription medications and groceries.
I want to see healthy people with affordable health care. That’s why I support the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
On October 1, the health care marketplaces under Obamacare opened to the public. Alabama will have a federally facilitated marketplace to offer easy-to-understand options for health care coverage.
Under Obamacare, insurance companies will be required to offer more coverage for things like preventative testing, ambulatory care services, birth control, immunizations and mental health services.
Obamacare also regulates insurance companies to make sure they’re using your premiums for health care, not CEO bonuses. It also prevents insurance companies from creating lifetime caps on how much coverage you can receive or denying you coverage because you’re elderly, pregnant or have a pre-existing condition. The law also allows young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26 and makes it illegal to charge women more for the same coverage as men.
In the past, insurance coverage has been complicated and difficult to understand. It has required reading pages and pages of fine print and legal jargon. Now, insurance plans will be offered in simple, concise language to help everyone understand the benefits and coverage they’re getting.
In Alabama, those 642,738 people who do not have insurance coverage would qualify for coverage under Obamacare. Of those people, 95 percent would qualify for a tax credit to purchase insurance in the marketplace or for Medicaid if Governor Bentley would choose to expand Medicaid coverage.
Open enrollment will be open until March 31, 2014–visit www.healthcare.gov or www.enrollamerica.org to find out about the plans and benefits available under the Affordable Care Act. You can also look forward to an informative town hall meeting that I will host to help clarify details and information with federally-approved healthcare marketplace navigators.
While the Affordable Care Act has so many benefits for everyone in this country, it has encountered violent opposition from Republicans. They want you to believe that Obamacare is bad–even to the point of threatening to shut down the government to stop it.
We can’t let them stop it. The health and wellness of 642,738 people depends on it. Your preventative care and wellness services depend on it. Share this information with your friends, families and neighbors. Join me in the fight against the war on healthcare. Stand up in support of a healthy state and healthy people.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.