As our nation navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, a milestone health care anniversary has arrived: This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The landmark health reform law of 2010 brought sweeping changes to the U.S. health care system.
These two historic developments — the ACA and our response to the pandemic — are closely linked.
Because of the ACA, over 20 million more Americans have health care coverage at a time when many people in this country, especially older individuals and those with health conditions, need access to life-saving health care. If it weren’t for the ACA’s expansion of health coverage and protections, many more adults ages 50 to 64 — who are not yet eligible for Medicare — would be without health coverage.
Or they’d be worrying about whether COVID-19-related expenses would be covered by their health plan. And unfortunately as unemployment rises and people lose access to job-based insurance, even more people may need to rely upon coverage guaranteed under the ACA.
High uninsured rates, even in a particular state, can increase the difficulty of managing the spread of a virus like the coronavirus, which has implications for all of us.
While the priority must be to deal with the immediate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic illuminates areas in which our health coverage system is working, in part because of the ACA. It has also revealed areas that need major improvement.
In the face of this unprecedented public health crisis, not only do we need to take swift action to ensure that testing, treatment and recovery services are affordable and available to meet immediate needs — we also need to undertake the longer-term work of building on the ACA’s efforts to improve coverage and affordability for older adults.
But in recent years, the law has been weakened.