baracksigningI was invited to attend an event at the White House yesterday to commemorate the 90th day since President Obama signed health care reform into law, and it was a powerful event that underscored how much the law matters to American families.

Following a private meeting with insurance executives, the President walked into the East Room and was introduced by Amy Wilhite from Ohio.  Amy’s daughter, Taylor, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, for which Taylor received three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant that produced multiple side effects. Taylor’s father’s insurance plan has a $1 million lifetime limit, and as Taylor approached the limit, the family requested a $500,000 extension.  It was granted.  But Amy said that they still have to pick and choose which tests and follow-ups to go through with, because they don’t want to exceed the cap.  She was very grateful that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) banned lifetime caps and thanked the President for his leadership on the law.  Amy was articulate and her family’s story a powerful one, which moved all of us in the room.

After Amy,  President Obama spoke for about 25 minutes on abusive insurance practices that hurt families, and recent exorbitant rate increases that have captured headlines and prompted state action (such as Massachusetts’ prohibition of rate increases within the Connector).  But acknowledging that the cooperation of insurers is critical to making health reform a go, the President also suggested that he was ready to work with the industry to make the bill work.

The President went on to challenge politicians who are running on a platform of repealing the law–who want to go back to the system we had before. “Would you want to go back to discriminating against children with preexisting conditions?” he asked us. “Would you want to go back to dropping coverage for people when they get sick?”  Would you want to reinstate lifetime limits on benefits so that mothers like Amy have to worry?” The room was quiet.

“We’re not going back,” he said.  “I refuse to go back.”

–Rob Restuccia, executive director