As the Center for American Progress marks 10 years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law, it’s important to remember how the ACA has transformed Americans’ lives and made it easier for millions of people to afford health insurance. The ACA has ended pre-existing condition discrimination, lowered the cost of prescription drugs, brought down the overall costs of health care in America, and given people access to quality coverage they may not have had in the past.
The ACA has also helped ensure that individuals and small businesses get the help they need to purchase private health insurance in the individual market and on the small business exchanges. This includes providing subsidies to help pay for health insurance for people with incomes between 100 percent and 400% of the federal poverty level, making small business tax credits available, and creating a temporary reinsurance program to provide cost-sharing reduction payments. The ACA also eliminated copayments and other forms of cost sharing for preventive services, such as birth control, cancer screenings, blood pressure checks, cholesterol tests, and immunizations, to make it more affordable for people to get the healthcare they need.
For people with chronic or serious illnesses, the ACA has provided more stability and security by ensuring that they have access to high-quality coverage they can count on. This includes an end to lifetime or annual caps on benefits and a requirement that all plans cover categories of essential health benefits, such as prescription drugs, mental health and addiction treatment, and maternity care. The ACA has also prevented insurers from effectively screening out higher-cost patients by excluding certain coverage, and it’s banned them from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions.
Those who buy their own health insurance on the individual market or through the small business exchanges have more choices and greater flexibility than ever. Moreover, thanks to the ACA, Americans are getting better value for their premium dollar by holding insurance companies accountable for how they spend their money. For example, the ACA’s medical loss ratio rules require that companies spend 80 percent to 85 percent of their premium dollars on actual medical care, or else they have to give customers rebates. In 2019, this resulted in consumers receiving nearly $2 billion in health insurance rebates.
The ACA has also expanded access to government-funded health insurance for the most vulnerable, including children and people with disabilities. It has reduced the likelihood that nonelderly Americans will skip needed medical tests and treatments due to cost by 24 percent, while also reducing the amount of time that some families have spent waiting for coverage through their employer. The ACA has also helped many legal immigrants avoid costly delays while they wait for Medicaid eligibility to kick in by requiring states to provide coverage for new arrivals. This helps to reduce the number of uninsured in our country and promotes healthy communities.