Chicago-area residents celebrated the one year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act by President Barack Obama, March 23, with stories of how the law helped them obtain affordable and quality health care.
Real estate agent Melanie Stockdale said when her college-age son go sick, instead of emptying out her retirement savings to pay for his treatment, which "I would have gladly done," she was able to keep her son on her health insurance policy. Because of the Affordable Care Act (often referred to by tea party/GOP opponents in a derogatory way as "Obamacare") children can stay on their parents' health insurance policy until the age of 26.
Speakers at the "birthday" rally spoke about the law's many other benefits, including:
• Children 18 and under with preexisting conditions can now get coverage. This will extend to adults in 2014.
• Discrimination base on gender, which translated to women paying insurance companies more for coverage than men, is outlawed.
• Small business owners get a tax credit to help provide coverage for their employees.
• If your job does not provide insurance you will be able to buy into an insurance exchange and costs are based on income.
• Medicaid eligibility is expanded, as is funding for community health clinics.
In Illinois, 1.8 million seniors received free wellness visits, 47,000 young adults were eligible to stay on their parent's insurance, and 612,000 Illinois no longer have to fear losing their insurance, according to Citizen Action Illinois.
Yet, the biggest accomplishment of the law, speakers said, is it establishes the right of every American to health care.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., told the crowd, "We love Obamacare!"
Schakowsky predicted that as more and more people learn about the benefits of the health care law, and how it helps their lives, "you will see those buttons, 'I (heart) Obamacare.'"
Schakowsky, who recently introduced a deficit reduction bill that would increase the tax rate on millionaires and billionaires, said she would never forget the day the bill was signed into law. "I wept," she said, adding jokingly that she also cries at commercials.
There are so many lies that have been told and continue to be told about this legislation, she said. And the ones about Medicare told to our seniors should be considered "elder abuse."
"There is a new narrative emerging in the country, now," Schakowsky said. "Beginning with a prairie fire in Wisconsin, it is sweeping the country. People are saying, 'We are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.'
"These fights -- from collective bargaining to health care -- are about protecting cherished values as a country," the congresswoman said.
Illinois Department of Insurance director Michael McRaith said consumers are better protected today because of ACA. "What other product is there on the market, where people have money to buy it, but they are told no? It's obvious the market doesn't work and we had to go beyond the status quo."
Two Illinois state bills designed to stop unjustified rate increases and create a health care exchange for individuals and small businesses to buy insurance are moving through the state legislature now. Rally organizers pointed to these bills as the next round in the fight for affordable and universal health care.
Photo: Illinois Insurance director Michael McRaith speaks at the podium during the one year anniversary rally March 23 with Rep. Jan Schakowsky on left and USAction's William McNarry, far left. (Citizen Action Illinois)