Media conference explains benefits

- "The Affordable Care Act is already providing people with better options and we are looking forward to the progress it will continue to make."

That was a statement by Cecelia McCrae, a secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), during a media phone conference on Wednesday. It was hosted by senior administration officials.

The purpose of the conference was to provide insight pertaining to the Affordable Care ACT (ACA) and how its already helping Americans.

In March 2010, President Obama signed comprehensive health reform, the Patient Protection and ACA into law. The law makes preventive care (including family planning and related services) "more accessible and affordable for many Americans."

Some provisions of the law are already in effect but more will be implemented in the coming years.

"In 2014 there will be more choices and better help for Americans," McCrae explained. "There will be online marketplaces, which will also provide people with another way to find insurance."

Open enrollment will start Oct. 1 and coverage will be implemented starting in January. Pennsylvania residents can now start getting information to prepare for the enrollment by visiting

"The rates are already 20 percent lower than originally predicted," McCrae stated. "That's not even taking into account the tax credit that many people will be eligible for."

She explained that the lower cost will drive competition and added that "about 80 percent" who enroll will have "five or more" companies to choose from.

"This will bring more competition, which means lower rates and more choices," McCrae said. "It will help everyone across the country."

McCrae said that the ACA is already helping children with pre-existing conditions.

"They can't get denied," she said. "In 2014 the law will go into effect for anybody with pre-existing conditions."

Mike Hash, director for HHS in the Office of Health Reform, said that consumers want to find places that "meet their needs."

"Open enrollment will be from October 1 and go until March 31 of next year," he said. "There's ample opportunity for the public to review the choice they have and view available plans."

He added that the final premiums will be available in September, "in time for open enrollment."

Hash stated that the six month period will give the public the opportunity to "see exactly what the offers are and compare them."

"We are also working closely with the states so they can see how to better help their low income constituents," Hash stated. "We're very optimistic about the expansion of Medicare as well."

Hash added there is a "great demand" for health insurance.

"People with pre-existing conditions have been turned down, but this law is making health insurance available to them," he said. "Health insurance companies won't be able to charge more or deny them coverage."

You can learn more about the ACA at and you can also see how the law will affect each state.

Pennsylvania by the numbers

• 1,242,350 (12 percent) are currently uninsured and eligible

• 928,243 (75 percent) have a full-time worker in the family

• 491,258 (40 percent) are 18-35 years of age

• 864,180 (70 percent) are White

• 201,028 (16 percent) are African American

• 114,374 (nine percent) are Latino/Hispanic

• 33,494 (three percent) are Asian American or Pacific Islander

• 707,872 (57 percent) are male

• 1,141,720 (92 percent) are uninsured and eligible and may qualify for tax credits

• $34,832,212 received in grants for research, planning, information technology development and implementation of its Health Insurance Marketplace

• With the provision of keeping children on your plan until they are 26, over three million young people who would have otherwise been uninsured, were insured nationwide, including 91,000 Pennsylvanians

• As many as 5,489,162 non-elderly Pennsylvanians have some type of pre-existing condition including 656,877 children. Around 6,779 with pre-existing conditions gained coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan since the program began.

• Health insurance companies now have to spend 80 cents of your premium dollar on health care or improvement to care, or provide you with a refund. This means 123,581 Pennsylvania residents with private coverage will benefit from $6,875,277 in refunds, approximately $77 per family.

• In all states, insurance companies must publicly justify their actions if they raise rates by 10 percent or more. Pennsylvania received $5,312,084 under the law, to help fight unreasonable premium increases

• So far 4,582,000 people in Pennsylvania, including 1,769,000 women and 1,136,000 children, don't have to worry about lifetime limits on coverage. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and will ban them completely in 2014.