By REP. MARK TAKANO
On Oct. 1, the federal government shutdown for the first time in 17 years, furloughing 800,000 workers, closing national parks, and slowing, or in some cases stopping, important government services.
Despite efforts by the House Republicans, one thing that was not shutddown was Obamacare, as that day, thousands of uninsured Americans began enrolling in the health care exchanges that were set up by the legislation.
Obamacare helps Asian Americans across the country, but especially those in Southern California. In a report released by the National Journal, it was revealed that the congressional districts with the highest percentage of uninsured are in the southwest region of the United States in areas with a large minority population. Fitting that bill perfectly, the report revealed that 24.3% of residents in my district are uninsured.
The numbers don’t lie. With a high number of uninsured residents, Southern Californians will benefit greatly from Obamacare, as the exchanges will help uninsured Americans enroll in affordable plans where the monthly premiums are determined solely by income, age, and location. Those who cannot afford to purchase health insurance on their own are eligible to receive tax credits to help pay for the cost, or may qualify for expanded Medi-Cal coverage.
These marketplaces allow individuals and small businesses to choose between several different plans to find the coverage that’s right for them. There are four levels of coverage through Covered California: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, with Bronze plans being the cheapest, and Platinum being the most expensive. Through the marketplace, 2 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will have new opportunities for health care.
For example, a family of four living in Southern California making $60,000 a year will pay $299/month for the Bronze plan. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation released a report earlier this year that stated the average annual premium was $4,560 — by enrolling in the Covered California plan, that same family would save $972 annually.
That is what we’re fighting for — affordable health care for Americans so they have peace of mind and are not forced to go without insurance, leaving them vulnerable to financial ruin.
However, the uninsured are not the only ones who will benefit from Obamacare. With it, 3.8 million Asian Americans with private insurance will have access to free expanded preventive services and hundreds of thousands of young Asian Americans now have coverage from their parents’ plans until they turn 26. And those who fall ill will no longer be prevented from receiving care due to lifetime limits, helping 5.5 million Asian Americans live with financial security.
Obamacare was the culmination of a decades-long fight for health care reform. It includes important consumer protections that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, eliminates annual and lifetime caps on care, and allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plans longer. In addition, the law requires insurance plans to cover free preventive health services and lowers prescription drug costs for seniors by closing the Medicare Part D donut hole.
With millions of uninsured Americans now enrolling for health care, taking away their ability to purchase affordable health insurance and stripping them of the consumer protections would not only be irresponsible, it would be foolish. Republicans have decided to shut down the federal government to force the President to repeal Obamacare.
I’ll continue to stand alongside him to protect this plan and the benefits Asian Americans need.
Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat, represents the 41st Congressional District, which includes Riverside, Moreno Valley, Jurupa Valley and Perris. He serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee