The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped thousands of Kentuckians since it passed just three years ago. The positive impacts continue to spread. Think this sounds like an exaggerated claim? Consider this: Hardworking families now have peace of mind and financial security as a result of new health insurance rules that protect them. The new rules shield them against being dropped from health coverage if a person gets sick. The rules protect families and individuals from filing bankruptcy because of dollar amount limits on health coverage. The rules also end discrimination based on pre-existing health conditions.
Here is a look at the ways the Affordable Care Act helps:
New coverage options for young adults. The ACA allows parents to keep children under age 26 on their family health plan. More than 50,000 young adults in Kentucky now get health coverage through their family. They could not do so before the ACA.
Better value for health premiums. Almost 250,000 Kentuckians got rebates from their health insurers. The total was more than $15 million. The reason for the rebates: the ACA requires health insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care, or give back the difference.
Benefits for seniors. Kentucky seniors in the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” received drug discounts worth more than $111 million. More than 70,000 Kentucky seniors got discounts last year alone.
No more lifetime limits on health benefits. The ACA bans lifetime dollar limits on health coverage. More than 1.4 million Kentuckians no longer have to worry about going without treatment if they hit the limit.
Preventive services with no deductible or co-pay. An estimated 975,000 Kentuckians with private health insurance received preventive care with no out of pocket costs.
Help for small businesses. The ACA lowered health costs for an estimated 51,500 small businesses in Kentucky by providing tax credits. The current tax credit is 35 percent of premiums. Employers who offer coverage for employees will see this tax credit go up to 50% next year.
These gains are impressive. However, the most important benefits of the ACA are yet to come. In October Kentuckians can shop for health insurance. Kentuckians will shop through a new health insurance marketplace, called a health benefit exchange. More than 220,000 Kentucky individuals and families are expected to benefit from the new subsidies that will help to pay for their insurance. I will be one of these Kentuckians.
Then, in 2014, really big changes take effect:
Health insurers will be barred from denying coverage to an estimated 920,000 Kentuckians with pre-existing health conditions.
Health insurers will no longer be able to base their premiums on a person’s health
Federal funds will be available to cover 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid coverage to over 350,000 low income uninsured Kentuckians for three years.
Kentucky will benefit more than any other state from new Medicaid coverage under the ACA. More than half of all uninsured Kentuckians will be able to receive health coverage.
Expanding Medicaid will boost the state economy. This boost will be a critical benefit as Kentucky recovers from the recession. Kentucky is eligible for about $11 billion in new federal funds through 2019 to expand coverage. Families USA estimates that expanding Medicaid in Kentucky will create 14,700 new jobs.
These statistics are impressive. But more impressive are stories from individual Kentuckians. Their experiences tell the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Nick Harper, a former cancer patient and college student, told Kentucky Voices for Health what passage of the ACA meant to him: “As a former cancer patient, I know that I’m considered a high risk by insurance companies. It just lets me know that I’m going to be okay until I can get on my feet and find a career where I can get insurance through an employer.”
As we mark the third anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, let’s keep our focus on people like Nick.
Regan Hunt is Executive Director of Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of over 250 organizations and individuals working together to build a healthier Kentucky.