Health reform anniversary: How has it helped California citizens?

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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing three days of arguments in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the nation’s health care reform law, which was passed two years ago. Opponents have various economic and philosophical arguments, but supporters say the reforms have already helped California’s seniors and children.

Rebecca Charlton is a dietician at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles. For 10 years she’s had employer-sponsored health insurance that she says is excellent. Still, when her son became ill with chronic asthma, his doctor gave Charlton and her husband a tough choice.

"She said we can just say he had a reaction or a cold, we can treat him for some reactive airway disease, and then we can move forward and not put that down," Charlton says. "But if you really want to treat this like what it was, I need to put it down so you have access to all of the medications."

She and her husband opted for the accurate diagnosis, but they were afraid insurers would label it a pre-existing condition, and he’d be left uninsured later in life.

"That is no longer the world kids live in thanks to this health reform," says Wendy Lazarus, founder and co-chair of Children’s Partnership, a non-profit that works to improve health care for youngsters.

"There are now 600,000 children in California who cannot be denied heath coverage because they have a pre-existing health condition," Lazarus says.

Neither can adults with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer or heart disease. In California, more than 5,500 previously uninsured people now have coverage through a program created under health care reform.

Almost 5 million California seniors also benefit from the law, says David Sayen, Medicare’s regional administrator for California.

"On the Medicare side, the significant part of the affordable care act was the elimination of co-insurance and deductible for preventive services like screening, tests, shots for things like the flu," Sayen says.

Critics of health care reform point out that these changes come with a hefty price tag. Beyond their opposition against the individual mandate, which penalizes citizens who don’t purchase medical insurance, opponents fear that the law will stymie job creation when the economy can least afford it.

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