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MomsRising: An N.C. mom goes to Washington

Posted March 27, 2012 8:15 p.m. EDT
Updated March 27, 2012 9:26 p.m. EDT

Last week my son, Ethan, and I had the opportunity to go to Washington, DC, for a press conference with House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, and an afternoon in the West Wing. As a member of MomsRising, I was among thousands of moms who had shared their family's story about how the Affordable Care Act has impacted their life, and was invited to come and share our story in person.

Ethan was born with a benign, but very harmful, vascular tumor that required chemotherapy. He underwent treatment for the first year of his life, which was followed by nearly a year and a half of developmental therapies. He is now 5 years old and completely healthy. Yet, without the Affordable Care Act, he would still face a lifetime of struggling to get health insurance because of his medical history. Pre-existing conditions can no longer be considered by insurance companies for children’s coverage, which has allowed our family to officially close that chapter in our lives. You can read more about our story here.

At the press conference, we were joined by four other guests who had flown in from around the country to talk about their experiences with the new law.

I learned that Bob Meeks, a 75-year-old from Bradenton, Fla., had been in the Medicare “doughnut hole” ever since 2006 (the one where you have to continue paying your full monthly Medicare D premiums, but receive no prescription drug benefits). Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Bob and his wife have already begun to experience some financial relief from the doughnut hole, and over time, the new law will whittle it away.

I also learned that, as a small business owner, Brian England was committed to offering insurance to his employees. But in recent years, it had become a real struggle as rate were increasing 10 percent to 20 percent each year. In fact, Brian had heard last year that rates would rise 20 percent to 30 percent this year. Much to his surprise, his rate actually went down by 6 percent. Why? Because of something called the “medical loss ratio." In plain English, it means that 80 percent of the premiums that he was paying would now go to actual medical care, thanks to the new law.

The most important thing I learned is that even though the full bill has yet to be implemented, the Affordable Care Act has already begun to make a difference in millions of American's lives. No child, including my child, can be denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition. More than 5 million seniors have experienced savings in prescription drug benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Millions of children can now stay on their parent’s health plans until the age of 26. And 86 million Americans have already received key preventive health care benefits under the law.

After the press conference, we headed over to the White House to share Ethan’s story with President Obama’s staff. Ethan knows that he was very sick when he was a baby and understands how important it is to be able to go to the doctor now when he gets sick.

In a way, being able to thank some of the people who made it possible for him to get affordable health insurance, completed our family’s journey. I am grateful that we had the opportunity to do so in person last week in Washington D.C.

Felicia Willems is a Raleigh mother of one and a member of NC MomsRising. MomsRising members post monthly here on Go Ask Mom.