On March 23rd 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. This bill, often shortened to the Affordable Care Act or ACA represented a significant overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system and the largest expansion of medical coverage to uninsured individuals in nearly 50 years.
The American Heart Association continues to support the ACA because of its significant positive impact on the CVD population. Evidence supports that expanding access to quality and affordable health care coverage and including preventative medicine, emergency room services, prescription medications and other important benefits is the best way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Prior to the ACA’s enactment, millions of Americans were unable to obtain healthcare coverage due to costs or other factors. Millions of Americans were denied coverage, or charged exorbitant premiums due to their age, gender, or because they had a pre-existing health condition. The ACA leveled the playing field for patients by preventing insurance companies from discriminating against women, elderly people or people who were sick. The landmark legislation also required providers to cover a list of essential health benefits (EHBs) as well as barring providers from charging co-pays or deductibles for preventative care like vaccinations, mammograms and yearly physicals.
In the months and years since its implementation, the ACA has given access to comprehensive healthcare coverage to tens of millions of Americans who were previously uninsured. That’s not to say that everything has been smooth sailing since the ACA became law. There have been challenges to the stability of the ACA in many forms since before the bill was even passed by Congress including Congressional attempts to repeal the ACA, administrative actions to undermine access and drive up costs for consumers. There have also been legal challenges, culminating in several supreme court cases that ultimately upheld the constitutionality of the ACA.
Past victories for patient rights are by no means the end of the story. Efforts to repeal the ACA continue in Congress and in court rooms across the country putting patients like you and me at risk. With so many political pundits predicting a potential change in the political makeup of Congress there is a very real risk of the ACA coming under attack again. In the event of a congressional shakeup as a result of the November elections, many experts expect outgoing Representatives and Senators to be more willing to cast controversial votes that may end the Affordable Care Act.
The American Heart Association is committed to protecting access to comprehensive, affordable healthcare for as many Americans as possible. Millions of Americans who were previously unable to obtain comprehensive healthcare coverage would be without the medical care they need if the ACA were repealed. All the proposals put forth that would repeal and replace the ACA would leave millions without coverage bringing the country back to the pre-2014 days when insurers were able to deny coverage or else charge exorbitant premiums to people with pre-existing conditions or the elderly, many of whom struggle with cardiovascular health.
Americans need access to healthcare and they need it to be affordable. Patients and consumers need guaranteed access to affordable, high quality care that also protects them from the devastating financial costs of our health care system. If you’ve ever seen a hospital bill, then you understand how easy it could be to go bankrupt trying to pay your bills. In short, we need to strengthen the ACA, not repeal it, and continue providing the best access to care possible.