Healthcare reform “working the way it’s supposed to,” says Obama

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 11 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3800
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

In a speech in California on 5 June, President Barack Obama said that the Affordable Care Act, his signature 2010 healthcare law, was already benefiting those Americans who had insurance and would soon make it possible for millions more “to buy quality, affordable care just like everybody else.”

For Americans with insurance the law provided a range of new consumer protections, including access to free preventive care and the opportunity to keep children on health insurance plans up to the age of 26, a provision that had extended coverage to over six million young Americans, Obama said.

In addition, cost control measures that required insurance companies to spend at least 80% of premiums on healthcare had resulted in consumers receiving tens of millions of dollars in rebates, he said.

“All of that is happening because of the Affordable Care Act. All of this is in place right now already for 85% of Americans who have health insurance,” he added.

From next January millions more Americans currently without insurance will be able to obtain coverage through the expansion of Medicaid, the government health plan for people on low incomes, or through health insurance marketplaces called “health exchanges,” where they will be able to compare policies offered by competing insurance companies side by side.

Although critics of the law have made “doom and gloom predictions” that the law would fail and costs would skyrocket, Obama said that competition on the exchanges was forcing insurers to offer plans that have been priced far lower than had been predicted.

“Now, none of this is a surprise. This is the way that the law was designed to work,” Obama said.

US public opinion nevertheless remains divided over the law. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent health tracking poll found that 40% of those surveyed said they had an unfavorable view of the law, 35% a favorable view, while the remaining 25% said they did not know or refused to comment. However, four in 10 said that they did not know the law was on the books, with some thinking that it had been repealed, ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Obama acknowledged that it might not be all smooth sailing ahead for the law. “When you’re implementing a program this large, there will be some glitches. There are going to be some hiccups,” he said, but he called on opponents of the law to “stop refighting old battles” and start helping “to make this law work the way it’s supposed to.”

The Obama administration plans to launch a major drive this summer to promote the new law and encourage people to sign up to the new insurance plans, which will need young and healthy Americans to enroll to help defray the costs of older, sicker enrollees.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3800

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