Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Getting the Facts: The Affordable Care Act and You

This afternoon I joined Congressman Elijah Cummings and Maryland’s Health Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein in attending “Getting the Facts: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and You” – a Baltimore HealthCare Access event coinciding with the one year anniversary of the ACA. It’s important we celebrate this landmark legislation because it stands to transform the lives of millions of people.

This landmark legislation is important for several reasons:

•    The Affordable Care Act is a real opportunity to significantly strengthen the role of disease prevention and health promotion in tackling the chronic diseases that are causing medical costs to spiral. Diabetes and heart disease are the number one killers of Baltimoreans and others throughout the US. They are illnesses that are relatively inexpensive to prevent or control. But when people living without insurance become sick, they become dramatically expensive to treat.

•    It helps us move away from a system that revolves around sickness to one that focuses on well-being.

•    Thousands of people who are currently uninsured will receive health coverage. I look forward to the day when the majority of the 96,000 uninsured residents in Baltimore City will have health insurance. No longer will they have to worry about whether they should buy insulin syringes for their diabetes or pay their rent.

The federal government’s investment in health care reform will result in healthier, more productive citizens. It also will save Maryland and Baltimore City money by enabling us to prevent disease, detect it early, and manage conditions before they become severe. The ACA will reduce medical costs, driving down long-term health care spending.

The state of Maryland and Baltimore City are poised to benefit greatly from these structural and funding shifts. States will compete for more than $15 billion (over 10 years) under a new Prevention and Public Health Fund. Through new initiatives sponsored by the health department, we will be able to grow services and reach more people, tackling health disparities, improving health outcomes preventing premature deaths in the process.

The Mayor and I speak regularly about health reform and we agree that the task ahead is to ensure Baltimore City is well positioned to take full advantage of these opportunities, to work with our partners in health care to improve their readiness, and to communicate these changes to the public.

Today’s public forum was an opportunity for the community to get answers to their questions about health reform. Do you have questions about the legislation? What concerns do you have?


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