NAACP Opposes Efforts To Kill Health Benefit Exchanges In Affordable Health Care Act

EXCHANGES WOULD PROVIDE HEALTH INSURANCE TO MILLIONS OF AMERICANS AND ENSURE COST, BENEFIT AND COVERAGE PROTECTION; EXCHANGES ARE ESSENTIAL TO COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH CARE REFORM PASSED LAST YEAR

A key component to the health care reform law passed last year (the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) is the establishment of state-based Health Benefit Exchanges. Through the Exchanges, individuals and small businesses will be able to purchase private health insurance which must provide a minimum level of benefits at competitive rates. Participants in the exchanges are will be guaranteed protections including a cap on out-of-pocket expenses; a prohibition on the denial of coverage or increased premiums because of gender or a preexisting condition (such as a health problem); a restriction on how much premiums can be raised because of a policyholder’s age; and mental health parity. These exchanges, which are to be established by the states, are required to be operational by January 1, 2014. These state-based Health Benefit Exchanges are a central element of the ACA’s provisions to provide American consumers better access to affordable, high-quality health insurance coverage.

Sadly, on May 3, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1213, a bill to defund (and thus kill) the nascent exchanges. Specifically, H.R. 1213 would repeal exchange planning and establishment grants which are vital resources that states need to successfully implement health insurance exchanges, provide access to affordable, good-quality health coverage, and make the best use of taxpayer dollars. Although exchanges will eventually be self-sustaining, without access to this critical funding source, states will not have the resources needed to undertake the many tasks necessary to get their exchanges up and running. As a result, millions of Americans will lose access to affordable, high quality health insurance coverage.

H.R. 1213 has now been sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration, and specifically to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (“HELP”). While the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Tom Harkin (Iowa) has said that this troubling legislation will not go any further, we must make sure that Senators know how strongly we support the Health Benefit Exchanges, especially given how crucial they are to implementing health care reform, and that we are solidly opposed to any motion to defund them.

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