Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent and an instrumental lawmaker in implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the state level, issued this statement today:

“Today is the deadline for signing up for coverage through the state exchange, and we’re just one week removed from the fourth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. So an obvious question begs asking: ‘Are we better off than we were four years ago?’ Well, I’m happy to report that the answer for tens of thousands of Washingtonians is a resounding ‘Yes!’ It’s been a long journey to achieve real reform of a broken health care system where sick people were often dropped from their insurance into medical bankruptcy and tens of thousands of Washingtonians died for lack of health care.

“I worked hard to lead the charge to implement the ACA in our state, an effort that required years of difficult and often frustrating work. Although the ACA has made health coverage more accessible and affordable, its implementation was resisted by no small number of my colleagues, often for purely political reasons. As recently as last year, no fewer than 16 Republicans in our Senate voted to try to block the expansion of Medicaid in our state.

“So it’s been a tough fight to get to where we are today. But when I see the vast numbers of Washingtonians who are benefiting from it, that fight was more than worth the effort. More than half a million Washingtonians have been able to enroll in health care plans and expanded Medicaid as a result of the Affordable Care Act. That means healthier households and healthier communities, as well as lower health care costs for other Washingtonians whose rates had been inflated to absorb the expensive emergency room visits of uninsured neighbors.

“Across our state and across our country, the growth of health care costs is down to its slowest rate in 50 years. Countless households that had been unable to afford health care now have coverage. Free preventive care for vital services such as mammograms and contraception, previously unavailable to many, is now a given. Seniors are saving precious dollars every month on the lowered cost of prescription drugs.

“These are the differences we see every day. Less obvious to the eye, but no less obvious to those who experienced it, are the untold number of households that no longer live in constant fear that they might be driven into bankruptcy by out-of-pocket costs. Because the ACA prevents insurers from placing dollar limits on the care you can receive, or rejecting you for pre-existing conditions, or charging you more because you’re a woman or a cancer survivor.

“For years, deep-pocketed opponents of the ACA have often drowned out the benefits of the ACA with a nonstop noise machine of distortions, exaggerations and even outright lies. Today, as more and more people experience the true benefits of the ACA, they are learning the truth — and seeing why the Affordable Care Act is the biggest health care reform for middle-class Americans since Medicare was enacted in 1965.”