Health / Opinion & Editorial / Politics

Statement by the President on the sixth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

An editorial statement by President Barack Obama

Just six years ago, the reality in our country was that millions of Americans were locked out of our health care system because they couldn’t afford insurance or because they had pre-existing conditions. Women were charged more than men simply because they were women. People who needed coverage the most were too often denied it.

At the same time, rising health care costs posed a significant threat to our economy, eroding workers’ paychecks and adding to our deficits. And while costs were high, the quality of care often wasn’t.

The good news is, we’ve taken significant strides to change that. Tomorrow marks six years since I signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Thanks to this law, 20 million more Americans now know the security of having health insurance, and our uninsured rate is below ten percent for the first time on record. As many as 129 million people with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage or charged more as a result. Those with private insurance got an upgrade as well: now almost 140 million Americans are guaranteed free preventive care, like certain cancer screenings and vaccines, and improvements in the quality of care in hospitals have averted 87,000 deaths since 2010.

We’re also making historic investments to make sure our health care system puts patients first. We’re paying doctors for what works, improving the safety and effectiveness of health care that patients receive. We’re helping doctors and hospitals coordinate with each other by unlocking health data. And we’re giving patients more information and tools to stay healthy.

Critics said this law would destroy jobs and cripple the economy, but in fact just the opposite has happened. Our businesses have added jobs every single month since I signed it into law. The unemployment rate has dropped from almost 10 percent to 4.9 percent. Thanks in part to this law, health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years. Medicare is continuing a period of slow spending growth, saving taxpayers more than $470 billion from 2009 to 2014 alone. And premiums for a family with job-based coverage are almost $2,600 lower than if trends from the decade before the law had continued.

We’ve made good progress in the last six years. But we still have more work to do. We’ll keep working to get more Americans covered and help the millions of people who remain uninsured in states that rejected the Medicaid expansion option. We’ll keep working to make insurance and prescription drugs more affordable. And we’ll keep working to reduce costs and improve the quality of care throughout our health system.

But the facts are clear: America is on a stronger footing because of the Affordable Care Act. Six years later, this is no longer just about a law. It’s not about politics. It’s about the recent college graduate who can stay on his parents’ health insurance until he’s 26. It’s about the working mom who has coverage because her state expanded Medicaid. It’s about the entrepreneur who has the freedom to pursue her dream and start that new business. After nearly a century of effort, and thanks to the thousands of people who fought so hard to pass and implement this law, we have at last succeeded in leaving our kids and grandkids a country where pre-existing conditions exclusions are a thing of the past, affordable options are within our reach, and health care is no longer a privilege, but a right.


FACT SHEET: Health Care Accomplishments in Virginia

After Health Reform: Improved Access to Care
 Lowers the uninsured rate. Gallup recently estimated that the uninsured rate in
Virginia in 2015 was 12.6 percent, down from 13.3 percent in 2013.
 Prohibits coverage denials and reduced benefits, protecting as many as 3,491,076
Virginians who have some type of pre-existing health condition, including 437,558
 Eliminates lifetime and annual limits on insurance coverage and establishes annual
limits on out-of-pocket spending on essential health benefits, benefiting 2,974,000
people in Virginia, including 1,121,000 women and 817,000 children.
 Allows states to expand Medicaid to all non-eligible adults with incomes under
133 percent of the federal poverty level. If Virginia expands Medicaid, an
additional 180,000 uninsured people would gain coverage.
 Establishes a system of state and federal Health Insurance Exchanges, or
Marketplaces, to make it easier for individuals and small-business employees to
purchase health plans at affordable prices. During the open enrollment period
for 2016 coverage, 421,897 people in Virginia selected a plan through the
Marketplace, including approximately 156,102 new consumers and 126,569 young
adults. In Virginia, 72 percent of Marketplace consumers could have selected a
plan for $100 per month or less after tax credits for 2016 coverage.
 Created a temporary high-risk pool program to cover uninsured people with preexisting
conditions prior to 2014 reforms, which helped 3,252 people in Virginia.
 Creates health plan disclosure requirements and simple, standardized summaries so
4,514,000 people in Virginia can better understand coverage information and
compare benefits.
After Health Reform: More Affordable Care

 Creates a tax credit that, during the most recent open enrollment period, has helped
344,694 Marketplace enrollees in Virginia who otherwise might not be able to afford
it sign up for health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
 Requires health insurers to provide consumers with rebates if the amount they
spend on health benefits and quality of care, as opposed to advertising and
marketing, is too low. Last year, 180,113 consumers in Virginia received $12,130,227
in rebates. Since this requirement was put in place in 2011 more than $2.4 billion in
total refunds have been paid to consumers nationwide through 2014.
 Eliminates out-of-pocket costs for preventive services like immunizations, certain
cancer screenings, contraception, reproductive counseling, obesity screening, and
behavioral assessments for children. This coverage is guaranteed for 3,902,716
people in Virginia, including 1,587,663 women.
 Eliminates out-of-pocket costs for 965,942 Medicare beneficiaries in Virginia for
preventive services like cancer screenings, bone-mass measurements, annual
physicals, and smoking cessation.
 Phases out the “donut hole” coverage gap for 114,138 Medicare prescription drug
beneficiaries in Virginia, who have saved an average of $1,015 per beneficiary.
 Creates Accountable Care Organizations consisting of doctors and other health-care
providers who come together to provide coordinated, high-quality care at lower
costs to 287,516 Medicare beneficiaries in Virginia.
 Phases out overpayments through the Medicare Advantage system, while requiring
Medicare Advantage plans to spend at least 85 percent of Medicare revenue on
patient care. Since 2009, Medicare Advantage enrollment has grown by 102,104 to
251,592 in Virginia while premiums have dropped by 10 percent nationwide.
After Health Reform: Improved Quality and Accountability to You
 Provides incentives to hospitals in Medicare to reduce hospital-acquired infections
and avoidable readmissions. Creates a collaborative health-safety learning network,
the Partnership for Patients, which includes 67 hospitals in Virginia, to promote best
quality practices. Avoidable readmissions have fallen since 2010, saving 87,000 lives
and $20 billion in health care costs, and the rate of one common deadly hospital
acquired infection, central-line blood stream infections, fell by 50 percent from 2008
to 2014 nationwide.
Other legislation and executive actions are continuing to advance
the cause of effective, accountable and affordable health care.
 This includes:
 Advancing innovative care delivery models and value-based payments in Medicare
and Medicaid. The Administration set goals of tying 30 percent of traditional
Medicare payments to alternative payment models by the end of 2016 and 50
percent by the end of 2018, and met its 2016 goal 11 months early.
 Proposals to invest in targeted research and technologies to advance the BRAIN
Initiative, Precision Medicine Initiative, and cancer research.
 A new funding pool for Community Health Centers to build, expand and operate
health-care facilities in underserved communities. Health Center grantees in
Virginia served 290,430 patients in 2014 and received $210,786,665 through fiscal
year 2015 under the health care law to offer a broader array of primary care services,
extend their hours of operations, hire more providers, and renovate or build new
clinical spaces.
 Health provider training opportunities, with an emphasis on primary care,
including a significant expansion of the National Health Service Corps. As of
September 30, 2015, there were 117 Corps clinicians providing primary care services
in Virginia, compared to 52 clinicians in 2008.