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Compass: Affordable Care Act can only work if Alaska allows it to

I am a health care provider in Anchorage and I support the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I count Dan Sullivan as a personal friend, but with all due respect, his recent Compass piece (March 28) overlooked the significant benefits provided by the ACA.

I've been an orthopedic physical therapist in Anchorage for 25 years. Over the years, I've seen the real challenges people face with health care coverage such as denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, substantial rate increases and policy cancellations due to illness, and discrimination against women via higher premiums.

In 2010, Congress took action to fix some of these practices. Under the ACA, you are guaranteed coverage even if you have a pre-existing condition. You get to keep your coverage, even if you get sick. Premiums cannot be raised if you become ill. Women cannot be discriminated against when setting rates. Essential care like preventive medicine, hospitalization, drug and alcohol rehab and maternity care are now covered. These are real reforms that have helped Alaskans and all Americans.

Mr. Sullivan claimed that insurance companies cancelled thousands of Alaskans' plans, and that simply isn't true. Premera and Moda -- Alaska's largest insurers -- have extended their plans.

About 7,000 more Alaskans now have health coverage. I signed up for coverage under the ACA last December. My new "silver" plan includes much better coverage and cuts my deductible in half with only a small increase in premium -- without any subsidies. Expanding health coverage under the ACA has saved me money and provides more extensive coverage. It means more families in Alaska are getting the care they need.

The health care bill passed by Congress was very similar to a bill that Republican Sen. Ted Stevens supported way back in 1994. Health insurance reform isn't and shouldn't be "partisan," as Mr. Sullivan suggests. In reality, health insurance reform has deep bipartisan roots and it is based on commonsense reforms proposed by leading health care experts.

Now that the ACA has reformed some of the insurance industry's practices, we should never go back to the days when people couldn't get coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or when they could no longer afford insurance because their premiums were raised because they got sick, or their coverage was terminated when they became ill. We should never go back to the days when people couldn't afford, and thus didn't have access to, preventative and early detection tests and procedures that are now covered. People are healthier because of these reforms.

It's time to work together to provide affordable, quality health care in the Last Frontier, rather than talking about striking laws that will result in rolling back Alaskans' coverage. Let's all work together to move forward to fix the health care challenges we face. Everybody needs health care and that care should be comprehensive and it should include preventative care.

I am not saying the ACA is perfect. I am just saying it is a step in the right direction.

Cheryl Myers has provided orthopedic physical therapy in Anchorage for 20 years. She is past president of the Anchorage Rotary Club, co-chair of the Anchorage Rotary 90 by 2020 Committee, mentor for the Anchorage Interact Club and sits on the board of the Alaska World Affairs Council.



By CHERYL MYERS