Washington, D.C., March 22, 2012 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments today on the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law on March 23, 2010:
“As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) turns 2, the heart health of many Americans continues to benefit from the law’s improved coverage. The American Heart Association’s goal by 2020 is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, and to reduce deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent. The ACA, along with the unique public-private partnership, “Million Hearts,” are both key to helping us attain these important goals.
By 2030, 40.5 percent of the U.S. population is projected to have some form of cardiovascular disease, which will cost the nation’s healthcare system $1 trillion annually. We can avert this health and economic tragedy in the future if we practice strong prevention today. Prevention plays a critical role in conquering heart disease and stroke — the nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers — and in reducing the enormous costs associated with their treatment. If Americans can eliminate traditional risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels by the time they reach middle age, then they have a very low risk of ever having a heart attack or stroke. The Affordable Care Act is helping Americans improve, achieve and maintain ideal heart health through a greater focus on prevention. Last year, under the new law, 86 million Americans received at least one new free preventive service, including 32 million Medicare beneficiaries. Among Medicare beneficiaries, 20 million people were screened for high cholesterol in 2011.
The ACA also places an extraordinary emphasis on helping communities focus on prevention and wellness. The Million Hearts initiative, launched last fall, sets a goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years by harnessing tools and resources made available by the ACA. For example, states and communities have already received $1.2 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund to transform communities and help people live healthier lives through tobacco-free living, physical activity and healthy eating, and prevention and control of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
An estimated 7.3 million Americans who suffer from cardiovascular disease are uninsured and are often denied the coverage they need because of their medical conditions. But under the law’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), heart attack and stroke patients who have been uninsured for at least six months have been able to gain access to comprehensive insurance coverage. Of the 50,000 PCIP enrollees, an estimated 15 percent have heart disease, stroke or another form of cardiovascular disease.
As the nation’s highest court takes up the Affordable Care Act, we hope the justices will remember that these broadly supported patient protections could be undermined if the law’s minimum coverage requirement is struck down. Without this requirement, the promise of guaranteed, affordable health insurance may never be realized by all Americans, including those with heart disease and stroke who desperately need it.”