March marked the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the national health care reform that continues to inspire as much controversy and misinformation as it did the day it was signed into law by President Obama.
While much of the important changes of the ACA – including the insurance exchange, premium assistance for individuals and Medicaid expansion – won’t go into effect until 2014, we now have two years of data to assess the impact of the parts of the reform that have already been implemented. Here is what we know today about the beneficial impact of the ACA.
Last year, about 86 million Americans took advantage of the new laws prevention benefits – no deductibles or co-payments – on procedures such as mammograms, bone mass measurements, PAP tests, pediatric visits, cancer screenings, immunizations and colonoscopies.
Approximately 3.6 million seniors on Medicare have saved $2.1 billion on their medicine last year, and premiums on Medicare Advantage policies have fallen by 7 percent this year.
More than 2.5 million more young adults up to 26 years of age are now covered under their parents’ health insurance, thus reducing premiums and dramatically lowering the number of uninsured in this age bracket.
Approximately 7 million low-income children, whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to purchase health insurance on their own, will continue to be eligible for the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through Sept. 30, 2019. CHIP provides these children with affordable, comprehensive, high-quality health coverage.
Tens of thousands of previously uninsured Americans because of medical conditions now have affordable health insurance through the Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plans administrated by the states or federal government.
Hundreds of thousands of businesses with fewer than 25 employees have reduced their healthcare costs due to the small business health insurance tax credits.
Tens of thousands of Americans each year are not having their health insurance policies canceled because they have reached previously allowed lifetime limits.
All these benefits of the Affordable Care Act were accomplished with little impact on health care cost. According to a recent report by Medicare actuaries, all health care spending increased by 3.9 percent in 2010 (latest data available) with only 0.1 percent a result of the ACA.
Yet a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 14 percent of Americans understand they have benefited from the ACA while about 66 percent said that the law hasn’t affected them and 21 percent claimed that the ACA has had a negative effect on them.
Obviously there is a disconnect between how the ACA has benefited the public and the public perception. There are two explanations for this.
First, the ACA benefits are not being attributed to the law. There is no note accompanying the receiving of the benefits that gives credit to the ACA – something supporters should have required in the law.
Second, opponents of the ACA have been loud and relentless with misinformation and disparaging commenting. There is no other explanation for 21 percent believing they have been harmed.
The ACA continues to roll out with a few bumps in the road. But in spite of the critics, the benefits of this historic and vital health care reform will continue to grow.