WASHINGTON — From mammograms to immunizations, more than a million Nebraskans and Iowans on private insurance have gained full coverage for at least one service under the new health care law, the White House said Thursday.
The law has taken a beating from opponents who point to the many Americans seeing their policies canceled and the balky federal website that's supposed to serve as a handy sign-up portal for those buying coverage on the individual market.
All the criticism has the White House seeking to remind people of the law's benefits — such as free preventive services and the ban on denying people coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition.
“The Affordable Care Act does more than just give millions of uninsured Americans access to health insurance,” said a statement by the White House. “It helps Americans who already have insurance feel more secure in their coverage, ensuring it'll be there when they need it. This is a pocketbook issue for many middle-class families.”
The White House on Thursday released state-by-state statistics and said President Barack Obama's top priority is helping individual Americans and businesses take advantage of the new law's benefits.
Among the White House bullet points for Nebraska and Iowa:
» About 477,000 Nebraskans and 801,000 Iowans on private insurance gained full coverage for at least one preventive health care service such as a mammogram, birth control or an immunization in 2011 and 2012. In the first 11 months of 2013, an additional 174,200 Medicare recipients in Nebraska and 342,500 in Iowa received at least one preventive service with no out-of-pocket cost.
» Up to 768,000 Nebraskans and 1.29 million Iowans with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, cancer or diabetes no longer have to worry about being denied coverage or being charged higher prices because of their health status or history.
» About 402,000 Nebraskans and 666,000 Iowans have gained expanded benefits for mental health and substance abuse disorders.
» Individuals no longer have to worry about having their health benefits cut off after they reach a lifetime cap set by insurance companies. Starting in January, 701,000 Nebraskans and 1.19 million Iowans will no longer have to worry about annual limits, either.
In highlighting the law's benefits, the Obama administration is drawing attention to what would disappear if Republicans were successful in their attempts to repeal the law.
But Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., predicted that the White House campaign to promote the law would go nowhere.
“The White House from day one has believed that all problems are solved by a better communications strategy,” Johanns said in an interview Thursday. “I think it's great to have a communications strategy, but this isn't going to work for them.”
Johanns, who favors repeal, said the legislation was too big and complicated from the start. He also suggested that the White House is not serious about working to improve it.
“They don't even want to fix it,” Johanns said, “because they worry that if they pull one string, the whole sweater unravels right before their eyes.”