The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped millions of Americans access affordable health coverage. It has also sparked many important changes in the health-care system that will help people and families for years to come.
One of the biggest ACA achievements is its expansion of coverage, which has resulted in 18 million more people with coverage than before the law was passed. Coverage gains have occurred across all income levels and among both children and adults.
This increase in coverage has been achieved through strong consumer protections and through the creation of insurance “exchanges” where consumers can purchase individual health insurance policies with government subsidies. These exchanges are operated by the federal government and state governments, and each has a web portal through which individuals can browse coverage options, compare plans, and enroll in coverage.
A major feature of the ACA is the requirement that insurance companies offer health plans that comply with several new requirements, including a ban on pre-existing condition exclusions and an end to lifetime caps on benefits. This ensures that consumers can choose coverage that best meets their needs, and that they don’t have to worry about a sudden change in their benefits if they get sick or injured.
Moreover, the ACA requires that insurers offer policies with standardized coverage that has the same deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums for all policyholders. Standardized plans include a wide range of benefits, such as primary and specialty visits, prescription drugs, urgent care, mental health and substance abuse services, and speech and occupational therapy.
The ACA has also encouraged insurers to include free preventive benefits. This has resulted in 137 million Americans with private health insurance receiving better coverage for recommended screenings, including cancer, diabetes, and blood pressure.
It has also made it easier for young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26, ensuring that they have coverage until they can afford to buy their own policy.
More Americans have received subsidized coverage through the ACA Marketplaces than ever before, making it much more affordable for people to have access to high-quality, affordable health care. This is particularly true for low-income and working-class families.
A key reason for this is the premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions that are available through the ACA. These subsidies are based on household income as determined by the Social Security Administration and can help pay for insurance plan premiums up to 400 percent of the poverty level. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, by 2023, more than 80 percent of people who purchase an ACA-compliant health plan through the Marketplace will receive a tax credit to help cover their premiums.
Another huge benefit of the ACA is the expansion of Medicaid, which has provided coverage to an additional 4.4 million Americans who would otherwise be uninsured. It has helped to bring down the uninsured rate to an all-time low of 9 percent, resulting in an economic boost for states and communities.