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Tom Harkin's Blog

March 22, 2011

The Affordable Care Act and Iowa - Stories from Around the State

March 23, 2011 marks one year since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. This landmark law does three important things: it ensures quality, affordable coverage to all Americans. It cracks down on the worst abuses by health insurance companies. And it places a sharp new emphasis on wellness and disease prevention.

All this week, Senator Harkin’s office will highlight various stories on how the Affordable Care Act has impacted Iowans. For a complete list of benefits of the new law in Iowa, please click here. To watch Senator Harkin’s video about the new law, click here.

The Affordable Care Act and Iowa Small Businesses:

Mike Draper, Owner of RAYGUN
Des Moines

MIKE’S STORY: Since, 2005, Mike has owned and operated a retail clothing and screen-printing shop in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Over the last four years, Mike’s business has grown from one employee to more than twenty and from $60,000 in annual sales to more than $2 million in projected annual sales this year.

BEFORE HEALTH REFORM: Like most small business owners, Mike wants to do right by his employees. Each employee of RAYGUN has a personal health insurance policy, paid for by the company. But the cost of providing health insurance was rising dramatically every year – cutting into his profits, and his employees’ take-home pay. Mike estimates that health insurance costs equal about 18 percent of after tax wages.

WHAT THE NEW LAW MEANS TO MIKE: The new law gives Iowa small businesses new resources to help meet these rising costs. Many small businesses are already eligible for tax credits that cover up to 35 percent of insurance costs for their employees. For Mike, this means he will be able to invest more in his business and in his employees. Overall, the new law provides $40 billion in tax credits (from 2010 to 2019) to up to 4 million small businesses nationwide to help offset the costs of purchasing coverage for their employees and to make premiums more affordable.

In November, 2009, Mike traveled to Washington to participate in a press conference with Senator Harkin on the need for health reform. A photo from that event, featuring Senator Harkin and Mike, can be found here.

The Affordable Care Act and Iowa Seniors:

Lynette Mahacek

LYNETTE’S STORY: Lynette is a senior citizen who received a $250 “donut hole” rebate check after passage of the new health reform law that has made it easier for her to afford her prescription drugs.

BEFORE HEALTH REFORM: Despite the success of the Medicare Part D program in allowing Medicare beneficiaries to buy prescription drug coverage from private insurance companies, seniors in Iowa and around the country faced limited coverage. In addition, some seniors reached a “donut hole” when they exceeded a certain level of benefits, yet had to pay premiums, but received no help on drug costs.

WHAT THE NEW LAW MEANS TO LYNETTE AND IOWA SENIORS: The new law has already provided 46,015 of Iowa’s Medicare beneficiaries with a one-time, tax free $250 rebate to help pay for prescriptions during their “donut hole” coverage gap. This year, seniors who hit the coverage gap will get a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs. And the law eliminates the coverage gap by 2020.

Affordable Care Act and Iowa Patient’s Bill of Rights:

Gerianne Buelow and son T.J. Haislet

GERIANNE AND T.J.’S STORY: At the age of 23, T.J.’s father, who provided his insurance, lost his job. T.J. is a full-time student and applied for individual coverage, but was denied because of a preexisting condition. A picture of Gerianne and T.J. can be found here.

BEFORE HEALTH REFORM: Many young adults, who are transitioning from being students to having a job, were stuck trying to decide if they can afford insurance or risk getting sick before they find a job.

WHAT THE NEW LAW MEANS TO GERIANNE, T.J. AND IOWA FAMILIES: Thankfully, Gerianne and her current husband were able to add T.J. to their current medical coverage. The new law means that 300,466 young adults in Iowa will be able to remain covered by their parent’s insurance policy until age 26.

The Affordable Care Act and Iowa Young Adults:

Annette Zapolis

ANNETTE’S STORY: Annette went without health insurance since graduating from Augustana College in 2009. She worked hard to open her own business, a coffeehouse, in a depressed business area of her college town. But after saving and struggling to make her business a success, the rising costs of health coverage were out of reach, which meant that a simple sinus infection could turn into something much more serious and an emergency room could be her only treatment option.

BEFORE HEALTH REFORM: Many young adults in Iowa and around the country fared the same as Annette: struggling to make ends meet and afford the high costs of health coverage.

WHAT THE NEW LAW MEANS TO ANNETTE AND IOWA YOUNG ADULTS: The Patient’s Bill of Rights, which went into effect six months after passage of health reform, extends coverage for young adults, allowing them to stay on their parents’ plan until their 26th birthday. Annette took advantage of this provision and is now covered under her parents’ insurance. For more information on this provision and other aspects of the new law, please click here: http://www.healthcare.gov/.

Affordable Care Act and Iowa Patient’s Bill of Rights:

Michael Neighbor and his son Jackson

MICHAEL’S STORY: Michael and his wife have a 16 month-old son, Jackson, who suffers from bronchial malasia and pulmonary valvular stenosis. He is a wonderfully happy and actively healthy boy who loves to play with his older brothers. A picture of Michael’s children can be found here.

BEFORE HEALTH REFORM: Before passage of health reform, children with pre-existing conditions could be dropped from coverage.

WHAT THE NEW LAW MEANS TO MICHAEL AND JACKSON: Six months after passage of health reform, a new Patient’s Bill of Rights went into effect, preventing job-based health plans and new individual plans from denying or excluding coverage for children under age 19 based on a pre-existing condition, including a disability.


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