Benefits of health care reform haven’t been fully recognized

Published on May 22, 2012

The Post and Courier


Today marks the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the national health care reform that continues to inspire as much controversy and misinformation as it did the day it was signed into law by President Obama.

While much of the important changes of the ACA — including the insurance exchange, premium assistance for individuals and Medicaid expansion — won’t goin to effect until 2014, we now have two years of data to assess the impact of the parts of the reform that have already been implemented. Here is what we know today about the beneficial impact of the ACA.

Last year about 86 million Americans took advantage of the new law’s prevention benefits — no deductibles or co-payments — on procedures such as mammograms, bone mass measurements, PAP tests, pediatric visits, cancer screenings, immunizations and colonoscopies.

Approximately 3.6 million seniors on Medicare saved $2.1 billion on theirmedicine last year and premiums on Medicare Advantage policies have fallen by 7percent this year.

Over 2.5 million more young adults up to 26 years of age are now covered under their parents’ health insurance thus reducing premiums and dramatically lowering the number of uninsured in this age bracket.

Approximately 7 million low-income children, whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to purchase health insurance on their own,will continue to be eligible for the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through Sept. 30, 2019. CHIP provides these children with affordable, comprehensive, high-quality health coverage.

Tens of thousands of Americans who were previously uninsured because of medical conditions now have affordable health insurance through the Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plans administrated by the states or federal government.

Hundreds of thousands of businesses with less than 25 employees have reduced their health care costs due to the small business health insurance tax credits.

Tens of thousands of Americans each year are not having their health insurance policies cancelled because they have reached previously allowed lifetime limits.

All these benefits of the Affordable Care Act were accomplished with little impact on health care cost. According to a recent report by Medicare actuaries,all health care spending increased by 3.9 percent in 2010 (latest data available) with only 0.1 percent a result of the ACA.

Yet a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 14 percent of Americans understand that they have benefited from the ACA while about 66 percent said that the law hasn’t affected them and 21 percent claimed that the ACA has had a negative effect on them.

Obviously there is a disconnect between how the ACA has benefited the public and perception. There are two explanations for this.

First, the ACA benefits are not being attributed to the law. There is no note accompanying the receiving of the benefits that gives credit to the ACA,something supporters should have required in the law.

Second, opponents of the ACA have been loud and relentless with misinformation and disparaging commenting. There is no other explanation for 21 percent believing that they have been harmed.

The ACA continues to roll out with a few bumps in the road. But in spite of the critics, the benefits of this historic and vital health care reform will continue to grow.

Frank Knapp is president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. Sue Berkowitz is director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center.

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