It’s tempting to cite a long list of benefits from the Affordable Care Act. But let’s focus on two core purposes of the law. First, the law makes health insurance accessible to millions who need it the most, including those with preexisting conditions.
But this access is only affordable by encouraging people to get coverage before they get sick – with both carrots (tax credits for insurance) and sticks (penalties for not having insurance). That’s how insurance works: It spreads risk across a large pool of people.
While most Americans already have health insurance, we’re all at risk of losing it. You could lose your job, change jobs, or be diagnosed with an illness. Over a four-year period, from 2004 through 2007, 89 million Americans were uninsured at some point.
These people aren’t lazy moochers; they encounter life’s vicissitudes. To be sure, they could visit emergency rooms to get the most expensive and least timely care – which is still paid for by the rest of us. But this rationing of care is inhumane. Under the new law, Americans will no longer live in fear of financial ruin from health-care bills.
Second, the law curbs health-care costs over the long term.
The law’s reforms to the way health care is paid for and delivered encourage hospitals and doctors to provide better care at lower cost. These savings strengthen Medicare for seniors – lowering their drug costs, premiums, and cost-sharing. This month, for instance, hospitals have financial incentives to reduce preventable re-admissions – motivating them to improve care.
Repeal would make Medicare insolvent in four years and, as my colleagues and I estimate, increase retirement costs by an average $11,100 for a current 65-year-old.
The law’s reforms to the payment and delivery system should be expanded. But they’re already improving care, and this progress must not be rolled back.
Topher Spiro is the managing director of health policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.