I went to Washington DC right after the 2008 election to open up Consumer Watchdog's office on Capitol Hill and make sure health reform worked for consumers. With the launch of new insurance marketplaces yesterday nationwide, consumers are reaping the fruit of health reform: Insurers must sell policies to everyone and cannot charge more based on medical history, for example, and insurers are prevented from canceling consumers' coverage based on an innocent omission in their enrollment application.
We worked hard in DC on these and other reforms to protect consumers in this historic new health program. But we still have more work to do.
Our ballot initiative on the 2014 California ballot would make sure that the new policies insurers began selling yesterday are not too expensive and that the Insurance Commissioner can order refunds when they are.
A second initiative is headed for the same ballot to guarantee greater patient safety by creating mandatory drug testing of physicians and modernizing decades-old patient safety laws. Signature collection for that measure is beginning soon.
For now, though, we should all celebrate that some of health insurance companies' most pernicious practices have been shut down.
Obamacare is not Medicare-for-all, and it doesn't have enough cost protections, but it's still a big win for consumers who will soon be protected against medical bankruptcy and outrageous abuses. And it is just the beginning of reform, not the end.
If you're one of the millions of Americans who need health insurance, go to www.healthcare.gov and learn how you can sign up today.
With your help, we can keep moving reform of the health care system forward.