by Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
Two years ago last week, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act – the law that gives hard working, middle-class families the health security they deserve.
For too long, rural Americans have been getting the short end of the health care stick, with limited options, fewer doctors and nurses, and more expensive insurance. But the new law is building a stronger health system in rural communities – increasing payments to rural health care providers, strengthening Medicare, and training thousands of new primary care doctors who will serve in rural areas.
As the Affordable Care Act is giving our health system a much-needed overhaul, I want to explain how to take advantage of some of the most important changes.
The law forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick – and imposing lifetime limits so they can’t bill you into bankruptcy. It has helped more than 2.5 million young adults get health care through their parents’ plan. Soon, it will prevent insurers from discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition – a protection that it has already created for children.
The law helps close a troublesome treatment gap with urban communities. It gives millions of rural Americans access to no-cost preventative services – like mammograms and vaccinations for children – to help them stay healthy.
President Obama knew we couldn’t fix the economy without fixing healthcare, so the law is also making an impact on our pocketbooks. Already, three million seniors have received a 50 percent discount on their prescription drugs. The small businesses which employ nearly two-thirds of rural Americans can take advantage of a 35 percent tax credit to give their employees health insurance.
The law is providing new coverage options to rural communities while fostering competition between insurers to bring down the cost of coverage.
At USDA, we have also invested in rural healthcare, providing funding to improve nearly 600 rural health facilities serving more than 11 million Americans.
No one should have to go without health care because of where they live. The new health law is providing rural communities with better access to doctors and nurses. It is holding insurers accountable. And it is giving rural Americans better and more affordable health coverage choices.
You can learn more about the law and how to take advantage of these benefits by visiting www.healthcare.gov.