In March 2010, Congress passed, and the President signed, comprehensive health reform into law. Millions of Americans are already benefiting from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and millions more will benefit from important reforms that take effect next year. To see all of the law's benefits, and learn about the new health insurance options available to California residents beginning October 1, 2013 because of the Affordable Care Act, click here.
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Increasing Access and Reducing Costs
- Reducing the Cost of Health Insurance - Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in over 50 years. Because of health reform, insurance companies now have to spend at least 80 percent of insurance premiums on medical care - not paperwork or overhead - or they have to refund the difference. In 2013, 8.5 million people across the county received rebate checks from their insurance company, including 1.4 million people in California. Additionally, for the first time ever, insurance companies have to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise premiums by 10 percent or more.
- Giving Patients a Bill of Rights - As one of the first in Congress to recognize HMO abuses, in 1997 Senator Boxer authored a Patients’ Bill of Rights, to ensure that doctors and nurses, not insurance companies, were the ones making medical decisions Since then, she has continued to fight for the rights of patients to choose their own primary care doctor from their plan’s network, to receive medically necessary care from specialists, and to be able to go to the closest emergency room. Senator Boxer strongly supported the reforms in the Affordable Care Act that are now protecting consumers from the worst insurance company abuses, like canceling policies, denying coverage or charging more for people with pre-existing conditions, and lifetime or annual caps on coverage.
- Protecting Access to Mental Health Services - Mental illness is a pervasive and potentially devastating health problem that is often treatable, yet many Americans do not receive necessary mental health services because they can’t afford them, their insurance won’t cover them, or because of the stigma associated with them. Senator Boxer is a longtime supporter of legislation, which passed in 2008, to ensure that Americans facing mental health challenges are fairly treated by their insurance companies. This law prevents insurance plans from making it harder for people to access mental health services by imposing extra fees or limits on benefits. The Affordable Care Act built on this law by extending these protections to millions more Americans – marking one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance use disorder coverage in a generation.
- HIV/AIDS Research and Treatment - Senator Boxer is a strong supporter of the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides the largest federal investment in community-based HIV/AIDS health care services, and gives critical support to local governments to keep basic programs running. She has fought for increased funding for Ryan White programs and fought to prevent urban areas, including cities in California, from seeing drastic cuts to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment funding.
- Strengthening the Health Care Safety Net - Senator Boxer supports legislation to increase federal investments in programs such as Community Health Centers and the National Health Service Corps, which provides a safety net that helps millions of Americans each year obtain needed health care services. During the debate over the Affordable Care Act, Senator Boxer worked with Senator Sanders to include a provision authorizing $11 billion to build, expand, and operate Community Health Centers throughout the United States. She has also fought against cuts to the Disproportionate Share Hospital Programs that support hospitals which serve mainly uninsured, Medicaid, and Medicare patients.
Preserving Medicare and Protecting Seniors
- Ensuring Doctors Can Treat Medicare Beneficiaries - Senator Boxer has consistently voted against dangerously high pay cuts to doctors that provide services to Medicare beneficiaries, because she is concerned that these cuts would limit seniors’ access to health care. Senator Boxer is also committed to ensuring that Medicare pays doctors on time, because delays in payment threaten thousands of medical practices, and may reduce the access to essential health care services for Californians who rely on Medicare.
- Providing Prescription Drug Coverage - Senator Boxer has been a long-time supporter of providing a comprehensive and affordable Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors, including provisions that would allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for better drug prices for seniors. During the creation of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit for seniors, Senator Boxer introduced the first amendments to close a gap in coverage called the “donut hole” that forces some seniors to pay for prescription drugs out of their own pockets without help from Medicare, and the donut hole will close completely by 2020 thanks to provisions included in the Affordable Care Act.
- Medicare Eligibility Age - Senator Boxer helped lead the fight to stop a proposed increase in the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. She voted to stop privatization efforts that would have forced seniors out of Medicare and into HMOs, and continues to fight to ensure that Medicare is preserved.
Protecting Women’s Health
- Expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program to Cover Pregnant Women – Senator Boxer is committed to ensuring all children have access to health care, and is a longtime supporter of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This program provides children from low income families with access to doctors, life-saving prescription drugs, immunizations, preventive screenings and the basic medical care necessary to start life healthy. Senator Boxer introduced and the Senate passed an amendment to the Budget Resolution which provided for the coverage of pregnant women under the Children’s Health Insurance Program to ensure the health of both mother and child.
- Providing Necessary Care for Mothers and Newborns - Senator Boxer cosponsored the Newborn and Mothers Health Protection Act, which was signed into law on September 26, 1996. This law guarantees newborn infants and their mothers a 48 hours hospital stay after birth.
- Ensuring Women’s Access to Preventive Health and Family Planning Services - Senator Boxer has fought to increase access for women to preventive health and family planning services. She has led the effort to increase funding for the Title X family planning program, which provides funding for preventative health care, including contraceptive services, sexually transmitted disease prevention, cervical and breast cancer screenings, and other health services for women in need. Senator Boxer has fought against efforts to repeal or defund portions of the Affordable Care Act that guarantee women access to preventive services like contraception, breastfeeding supplies, and annual well-woman visits at no out-of-pocket cost.
- Protecting A Woman’s Right to Choose - Senator Boxer is a leader in the effort to preserve a woman’s right to choose. She authored the Freedom of Choice Act, which would have codified the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe vs. Wade.
- Helping Women Fight Ovarian Cancer - Senator Boxer introduced legislation to further research and prevention efforts in the fight against ovarian cancer. Her Ovarian Cancer Biomarker Research Act would invest in research to better detect and treat ovarian cancer. The bill would also provide funding for clinical trials to identify effective ovarian cancer biomarkers.
- Furthering Breast Cancer Research – Senator Boxer secured funding for a research project to investigate the high and increasing incidence of breast cancer in Marin County, with the goal of decreasing breast cancer rates locally and nationally.
Making Critical Investments in Research and Public Health
- Investing in Lifesaving Research - In order to make sure that patients continue to benefit from lifesaving research and treatments, Senator Boxer has been a strong supporter of funding for basic health research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Stem Cell Research - California enacted the nation’s first law to permit research involving human embryonic and adult stem cells while facilitating the voluntary donation of embryos for stem cell research. Senator Boxer is proud of California’s initiative, but knows it is not nearly enough to fulfill our obligation to work tirelessly to find cures for diseases. She is a strong supporter of federal investment in stem cell research that could help those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, ALS, diabetes, cancer and other diseases.
- Prostate Cancer Research Funding - Senator Boxer introduced the Prostate Research and Men’s Education Act, which would help develop new prostate screening and detection technologies to replace existing methods that lead to many false-negative reassurances or false-positive alarms, both of which can have devastating consequences.
- Eradicating Polio - Senator Boxer has led the effort for continued funding to eradicate polio, and strongly supports efforts at both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to continue to provide critical support for global efforts to eradicate this devastating disease.
- Ending Harmful Sequester Cuts- Senator Boxer believes that we must take steps to put an end to the damaging sequester cuts that have cut federal funding for lifesaving scientific and medical research.
- Ending the Outdated HIV-Positive Organ Research Ban - Senator Boxer wrote the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, or HOPE Act, which the President signed into law on November 21, 2013. The HOPE Act ends the federal ban on research into organ donations from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients. The bipartisan measure opens a pathway to the eventual transplantation of these organs and could provide life-saving assistance to HIV-positive patients who are at risk of liver and kidney failure.