Happy 8th Birthday, ACA: Celebrating the ACA’s Important Role in Improving Health Equity
Eight years ago today, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law of the land, and this year’s birthday is truly one to celebrate. Nearly one year ago, the ACA survived one of many repeal attempts Republican congressional leadership pushed throughout 2017 that would have threatened the extraordinary gains we have made in health care since the law’s passage. Today, we are proud to celebrate the Affordable Care Act’s eighth birthday, and highlight the important role of the ACA in reducing health care disparities in the United States.
encounter heightened barriers to accessing care, while also receiving poorer quality care and experiencing worse health outcomes due to a long history of oppression and discrimination. For example, black mothers in the U.S. are 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy, or childbirth-related reasons than white mothers, due in part to a lifetime of discrimination-related stress, limited access to health care, and systemic inequities such as access to healthy food, jobs and reliable public transportation. The ACA’s intent of expanding health insurance coverage, strengthening consumer protections and investing in public health has contributed to the narrowing of such disparities. While much work remains to eliminate these gaps altogether, the ACA has moved us forward by:
- narrowing racial and ethnic disparities in health insurance coverage through both Medicaid expansion and individual Marketplace implementation. The uninsured rate among African Americans fell by 5 percent from 2013 to 2016; and by 9 percent among Hispanic populations in the U.S. during the same time period;
- explicitly prohibiting discrimination in health care based on race, national origin, skin color, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity through Section 1557 of the ACA;
- requiring fair access to quality health care by barring health plans from refusing to cover or charging higher premiums on the basis of preexisting conditions. In the past, these policies have disproportionately harmed people living with disabilities, women and LGBTQ+ people;
- significantly increasing access to affordable health coverage for “lawfully present” immigrants, resulting in the percent of noncitizens with health care coverage jumping by 6.3 percent from 2013 to 2014 alone; and
- strengthening access to critical reproductive health services by requiring plans to cover contraceptive services with no cost sharing for millions of women.
The relentless efforts of our local, state and national partners over the last year ensured that these important gains were not lost. We also know that the fight to protect our health care continues, as evidenced by efforts this week to further weaken the ACA and undermine women’s reproductive health. Rather than working to strengthen the ACA and meaningfully address health disparities, the Trump administration and state legislatures across the country are working hard to roll back coverage gains from Medicaid expansion, weaken critical consumer protections, and destabilize the ACA’s Marketplaces.
Yet, despite the Trump administration’s work to undermine the ACA, nearly 12 million people signed up for insurance during the last enrollment period – exceeding all expectations. These strong enrollment numbers make it clear that Americans demand quality, affordable health care and reject partisan plans to sabotage the ACA.
We are committed to defending the Affordable Care Act and building on its success to make even more progress on reducing health disparities, and we count ourselves lucky to have dedicated partners who share this commitment standing by our side.