Happy Tenth Birthday, Affordable Care Act!

Written by: Erin Miller
Date Posted: March 20, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of how interdependent we are and that we are collectively only as healthy as those in our society who experience the greatest barriers to health and well-being. It’s also the first time that our country will face both public health and economic crises with the Affordable Care Act in place, and as we get ready to celebrate its tenth anniversary, I am grateful for the imperfect safety net it will provide.

Tens of thousands of Colorado kids and families have health insurance who did not have coverage before the law passed, and that coverage will provide both financial protection and access to critical health services during this pandemic. And as families lose their job-based coverage, they’ll be able to sign up for Colorado Medicaid, or for coverage through our state-based health insurance exchange. In fact, the Department of Insurance issued emergency regulations to create a new, two-week special enrollment period starting today in response to COVID-19.  This is an opportunity for Coloradans to sign up for health coverage who may have missed the open enrollment period at the beginning of the year and families with incomes up to $100,000 may qualify for financial assistance.

The Affordable Care Act was the greatest expansion of our health and social safety net since the creation of Medicaid and Medicare in the 1960s. And while the Trump administration continues to fight in the courts to have the entirety of the Affordable Care Act thrown out, the positive impact of the law on children is undeniable.

The Affordable Care Act dramatically expanded the percent of children in the country and in Colorado with health insurance coverage. It expanded options for private health insurance coverage, helped parents get covered by Medicaid (which led them to then get their children enrolled as well) and allowed young adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan. Health insurance coverage is good for kids and families. Covered kids less likely to drop out of high school, more likely to finish college and have higher incomes as adults. Health insurance protects family economic resources and reduces depression in adults. It has even been shown to reduce infant and maternal mortality. The law also protected children and parents with pre-existing health conditions from discrimination, expanded access to preventive care and ensured that women were charged the same amount for health insurance coverage as men and able to access to specific services they needed.

There remains work to do to expand access to health insurance coverage for ALL Coloradans and to ensure that coverage is affordable and provides real protection for families. But the Affordable Care Act brought the greatest improvements in child health that we have seen in 50 years, so, happy tenth, ACA!

If you want to read more about the impact of the Affordable Care Act over the last 10 years, see these great sources:

Colorado Health Institute — Unfinished Business: Where Colorado Stands on the Goals of the Affordable Care Act 10 Years Later

Protect our Care — ACA at 10 Days of Action: Children’s Coverage

Health Affairs (some paid content): March 2020 | The Affordable Care Act Turns 10

Erin Miller

About Erin Miller

Erin serves as the Vice President of Health Initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, leading efforts to improve health insurance coverage and quality for Colorado’s kids, improve access to health services, and ensure that every child has healthy places to live, learn, and play. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign in September 2015, Erin worked on the Accountable Care Collaborative team at the Colorado Department of Health Policy and Financing. She has extensive experience evaluating federal, state, and local policies related to Medicaid, CHIP, the Affordable Care Act, and public health programs as well as working with legislators, policymakers, constituents, and other stakeholders to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations. Her professional experiences range from serving as a WIC Educator and Local Area Retail Coordinator for Denver Health to serving as a Special Assistant in the HHS Office of Planning and Evaluation in Washington DC and as a Health Policy Adviser and Budget Analyst for the U.S. House Budget Committee.