The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” was created to improve health insurance coverage and to make it more affordable for the 47 million people in this country without insurance.
Four years after its passage the health reform law is working, and working well – despite efforts to stymie its success. To start, millions of young adults under 26 accessed coverage on a parent’s plan, older Americans saved money on prescription drugs due to Medicare fixes, and those with insurance gained access to preventive care – for free. This year, eight million Americans signed up for insurance through the new health plan “marketplaces.” And New York has already exceeded its three-year goal of enrolling 1.1 million New Yorkers.
NY State of Health
Today the NY State of Health, the Official Health Plan Marketplace, is a model for other states. Before the Marketplace launched, 2.6 million New Yorkers were uninsured. Half of these uninsured New Yorkers worked full time, could not afford their job-based health insurance or their employers did not offer it.
A report on the first open enrollment period of the Marketplace shows just how successful it has been at increasing health coverage in New York. In just the first six months, nearly one million New Yorkers enrolled in health plans on the NY State of Health. More than 80 percent of these enrollees reported not being insured when they applied for insurance. About 74 percent of the 370, 604 people who enrolled in Qualified Health Plans (QHP) were eligible for financial assistance. And of those enrolled in subsidized QHPs, more than half (53 percent) have incomes at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, or $36,600 for a family of three.
Over half of those who obtained coverage this year through the NY State of Health live in New York City. About 21 percent are Latino. Debra Sanchez, 58, of Manhattan had been out of work and without health coverage for two years. Ms. Sanchez had been going to low-income clinics in the city for care for her asthma condition. After reading a flier with information on affordable health insurance she contacted the Community Service Society (CSS). CSS assists New Yorkers enroll in coverage as a “Navigator” under the NY State of Health. In December 2013, a certified health counselor helped Ms. Sanchez successfully enroll in the Health First Medicaid Managed Care Program.
The Work Continues
The experience in New York suggests that the health reform law is working. More young people are becoming insured, costs are coming down, and more than a million New Yorkers now feel secure that they can go get a check-up and see a doctor when they need to, without breaking the bank.
While the ACA is here to stay, unawareness and misperceptions about it still abound. For example, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, only 37 percent of respondents were aware that people who enrolled in health coverage under Obamacare had a choice between private health plans. A quarter of the respondents thought people were being enrolled in a “single government plan.” And more than 37 percent did not know enough about the law to offer an answer.
The next open enrollment is in November. Until then, there are ongoing enrollment opportunities for small businesses, people who qualify for Medicaid, and people who qualify for Special Enrollment Periods. We can share the success that New York experienced by telling our friends, family, and neighbors that there are opportunities to get insured. Together we can create a new dialogue about the ACA and work towards a healthier nation where all individuals can get the health care they need.