Today is the 8 year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka "Obamacare". What better time to reflect on the bill and all it has done than today?
Prior to the 2010, I was unable to obtain health insurance due to migraines. Yes, migraines. A condition that I didn't take prescription medication for and didn't require regular tests or follow ups. But still, it was enough to deny me health insurance. Otherwise a healthy individual so besides obtaining affordable women's health check ups at Planned Parenthood, I didn't go to the doctor. However, many people with conditions like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, etc that NEEDED to see doctors were also denied coverage and unable to afford to take care of their conditions. ACA fixed this. ACA declared that insurance companies could not deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition and it eliminated waiting periods before they would be covered.
Prior to 2010, I was told that even if I could obtain health insurance, I would be paying $500 more a month than my husband based ONLY on the fact that I was a woman and despite the fact that women are paid less for equal work and thus already at a disadvantage to paying higher premiums. And before you ask, that did NOT include maternity coverage which would have been an additional amount per month. The ACA eliminated unfair premium disparities based on gender and required maternity coverage to be included.
Prior to 2010, an insurance company could place a lifetime maximum on the amount they would cover for you. So if you had a major medical condition that required extensive and/ or ongoing treatment, there could have come a point where the insurance would say "sorry, it's your responsibility now". The ACA changed that. Individuals no longer had to worry that their treatment would be too great and they would be responsible for overages on that limit.
After 2010, there was a marketplace here individuals who didn't have coverage through their employer could go and shop for a plan that best suited their needs. It also gave a subsidy so that lower income families who made too much for Medicaid but still not enough for health insurance, could actually be able to afford it. The number of uninsured decreased by 20 million because of this marketplace and the subsidies of the ACA.
There are numerous other small mandates that were a part of the ACA- chain restaurants publishing calorie count, required reporting of drug company payments to physicians, preventative services covered without a copay, require large companies to have a place for a woman to pump, and require coverage of children under their parents insurance until the age of 26.
As we've seen a battle in the legislation to roll back these much needed changes, we need to think about all the positive that the ACA brought about. It's not a perfect bill by any means, but it is miles ahead of anything we had in the past. It was legislation that actually looked out for the needs of all individuals. In fact, in polls, the only aspect of the law that did not receive over 60% approval rating was the individual mandate.
The purpose of the mandate was to ensure that there would be enough funds to cover the needs of unhealthy individuals. This is how all insurance works anyway. Individuals would often complain that they are young and healthy and therefore don't need insurance. But as the wife of a seemingly healthy 31 year old that was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma with a tumor growing into his heart, I can tell you that seemingly healthy people should never count on the fact of being healthy. If we had not been covered- under an ACA Marketplace plan- we would never have been able to afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars in hospital, chemotherapy, radiology, biopsies, scans, etc that our insurance covered. Having insurance may seem like an annoyance, but it saved us. And because of the ACA, the insurance company was not allowed to drop our coverage either.
So in honor of all of those that have relied on the ACA and benefited from it, I want to say, Happy Anniversary, ACA, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts!