Blog: Happy Fifth Birthday to the Affordable Care Act – One Giant Step Forward to Healthcare for All

Laura Peralta-Schulte
Mar 23, 2015

Today we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and declare once and for all that the ACA is a SUCCESS.

Unlike the hysteria that surrounded its passage, with critics arguing that it would destroy the U.S. economy, leading to job loss, the fact is that our economy is stronger, jobs are growing, and Americans are more healthcare secure than they have ever been.

Let’s look at the facts.

To date, 16.4 million U.S. families and individuals who were previously uninsured are now covered.  The rates of the uninsured have declined across races and ethnicities since October 2013, with a greater drop among blacks (9.2 percentage points) and Latinos (12.3 percentage points) than among whites, who had the lowest rate of those uninsured (14.3 percent) to start.

Today, millions of young adults under 26 have greater health security because they can stay on their parents’ insurance while they finish school or begin a career.

Today, there are financial protections in place if you face severe illness so Americans don’t risk losing their house or bankruptcy because they get sick.  Further, insurers can no longer discriminate against Americans with preexisting medical conditions by refusing to provide coverage or dropping coverage when folks get sick.

Today, we celebrate the fact that insurers can’t charge higher premiums if you are a woman and can’t sell substandard plans that don’t pay for essential health care benefits.

Today, we celebrate the fact that healthcare inflation is at the lowest level in 50 years and that slow growth in healthcare spending has substantially improved the long-term federal budget outlook.  According to the most recent projections, healthcare spending growth is the lowest on record with real per capita spending growing at an estimated average annual rate of just 1.3% over the three years since 2010.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reduced its projections of future Medicare and Medicaid spending in 2020 by $147 billion (0.6% of GDP) since August 2010. This represents about a 10% reduction in projected spending on these programs.

With all the good news, why is it that the Republican budgets call for the elimination of the Affordable Care Act?  On the fiftieth Anniversary of both Medicaid and Medicare, why are they proposing draconian cuts to Medicaid potentially eliminating coverage for millions of Americans and a fundamental restructuring of Medicare?  We also live with the real possibility that the Supreme Court, in the King v. Burwell case now before it, may narrowly interpret the ACA provisions related to expanding Medicaid to the states, with the effect of millions people losing coverage.

Our Catholic faith teaches that quality, affordable healthcare is a social good and basic human right.  NETWORK has called for universal access to a health system that serves all people, especially the most vulnerable.  Healing was central to the ministry of Jesus, and our commitment to providing quality healthcare is our nation’s means of carrying out our enduring responsibility to nurture the dignity of every person.  We must fight any effort to roll back healthcare coverage.

At the same time, as we celebrate the important milestones for the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid, we must remember that our work to provide healthcare insurance to all Americans is not yet complete.  We insist that Congress immediately renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for four years.  We insist that states expand Medicaid in states that have refused to provide coverage to families living in their states.

We must continue all efforts until everyone has quality, affordable health insurance.