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Don’t deny benefits of health reforms

March 24, 2011, 12:52 pm | Posted by ggraves-fitzsimmons
Detroit Free Press
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FPL worked with Sister Mary Ellen Howard on this op-ed

A year ago this week, Congress passed landmark health care reform that stands as one of the most important achievements since President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law more than four decades ago. This first anniversary will provoke fresh debate over a law many Americans still remain confused about, even as its benefits are already taking effect.

As a Sister of Mercy and executive director of the St. Frances Cabrini Clinic in Detroit, the oldest free clinic in the country, I’m on the front lines of our national health care crisis every day. Our doors are open to a steady stream of this city’s sick and most vulnerable who lack insurance.

I know that the more than 50 million uninsured Americans are not statistics. They are mothers, children and grandparents who deserve to be treated with dignity. In the wealthiest nation in the world, it’s a moral scandal that our broken health care system has left behind so many for so long.

This is why I’m hopeful that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is charting a new course. Because of this law, fewer patients will face dire circumstances. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. This means a young girl with cancer or another serious illness can’t be denied the care she needs.

In addition, new health plans must cover preventive services such as blood-pressure checkups and routine vaccinations without co-payments. This is an important victory; costly and life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses are often preventable, but research shows most of us avoid preventive care when it’s not covered. And over the next several years, 795,000 uninsured citizens of Michigan will gain coverage.

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