The Affordable Care Act, ACA or “Obama care,” was enacted in 2010 and has had extreme proponents and detractors ever since. The Act was a reaction to the soaring costs of healthcare and health insurance, leaving millions uninsured and going into medical bill debt. So, what is the ACA, exactly, and what are its benefits? Read on to find out.
Affordable Health Insurance
The central pillar of the ACA is Obama care plans that provide affordable insurance to millions of people who previously had no coverage. Over 20 million Americans who couldn’t afford insurance now how coverage under the ACA. It also protects people who have pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage or charged more. Before the ACA a third of all people who applied for private health insurance was denied, had specific health exclusions or were simply charged higher rates because of pre-existing conditions.
While those higher charges or denials might seem prudent for protecting the large pool of insured when an applicant had an active health issue like cancer during the application, insurance companies were also excluding treatment for conditions like high blood pressure, asthma or even childhood seizures that had long since passed.
Mental Health Benefits
Discussions around mental health are coming out of the shadows and part of that change is the ACA’s guaranteed coverage of mental health services. Before its passage, many insurance plans for small businesses or privately purchased coverage provided no mental health services or very few. That meant that addiction treatment, counseling and trauma were either paid for out-of-pocket or swept under the rug.
People suffering more persistent and severe mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are already more likely to be low-income and have less access to insurance coverage. The ACA forces private insurance and government programs like Medicare and Medicaid to offer the same levels of service for mental care as they do for physical needs. With the combination of more affordable insurance options and expanded Medicaid, people with these persistent disorders have increased access to care and the medications that make life manageable.
Fair Insurance Costs for Women
Finally, the ACA stopped the practice of charging women more for health insurance because of reproductive care. Women were charged up to 50% more for health insurance than men, and reproductive care was cited as the reason. The whole point of insurance is to spread risk over the entire group of insured people, so charging half the people more based on something as fundamental as gender was finally called out for the profit-padding behavior it truly was. Plans that didn’t charge more sometimes completely wrote out maternity coverage.
Now plans have to include maternity coverage and the ACA has ensured that preventative services like annual exams are covered in full and birth control is available at fair prices. In fact, 61 million women can access birth control free of charge.
The rest of the first world realized years ago that a healthy populace is a productive populace. The Affordable Care Act was America’s first step to joining them in recognizing the value of healthcare.