As Jews, we are committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable, quality health insurance, and the Affordable Care Act—significant parts of which have been implemented in the last few months—is a crucial first step.
Millions of people are benefitting from the new options and standards enacted into law by the Affordable Care Act. Last night, the White House announced that over the course of the open enrollment period, more than eight million people enrolled in the online Health Insurance Marketplaces—exceeding initial expectations by about a million people. But that is not the full story of the law’s impact. Three million young adults under the age of 26 have gained coverage through their parents’ plans, and another 3 million people were enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, for which enrollment continues year round. In a particularly underrated development, 5 million people have enrolled in private plans that meet ACA standards outside of the Health Insurance Marketplaces. Still, almost 6 million Americans remain uninsured due solely to the refusal of 24 states to expand Medicaid.
In sum, surveys show that about 4% of American adults are newly insured this year, with the newly insured skewing younger and less wealthy than those who already had insurance. It is clear that an improving economy, coupled with the many positive reforms of the Affordable Care Act, are helping more Americans get covered.
But millions of Americans still do lack insurance. While that number is estimated to decrease in the coming years, under the auspices of the ACA there will always remain some Americans who, for one reason or another, do not obtain coverage. The Reform Movement supports the Affordable Care Act because it is doubtless helping to expand coverage and to improve standards of care. But our policy has long stated that, “in the United States there should be made available national comprehensive prepaid single-benefit standard health insurance with no deductible to cover prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation in all fields of health care. This insurance should be made available to all on an equitable basis according to their ability to pay.”
That means that while enrollment in ACA plans must remain a key goal, our advocacy should also focus on continuing to move the ball forward on healthcare policy. In Vermont, authorities are working to implement Green Mountain Care, which would be the nation’s first single-payer system. The eyes of healthcare advocates, and the Reform Movement, will be watching their efforts. In the meantime though, we can and should work within the context the Affordable Care Act—the law of the land—to bring health care access to as many Americans as possible.