Saturday marks the three year anniversary of President Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. While some the law’s most significant provisions won’t go into full effect until next year, many of its important reforms have already taken hold — and have already changed the lives of real Americans for the better. Here are just a few ways that the Affordable Care Act has bolstered the health and financial security of Americans from all around the country:
1. Diabetic Arthur from California finally has health coverage after being uninsured for five years.
Refusing coverage and treatments for sick Americans due to their “pre-existing medical conditions” has always ranked among the insurance industry’s most reviled practices. For decades, Americans have recounted horror stories about battling insurance companies while loved ones suffered — like 4-month-old Alex Lange, who was turned away by an insurer for being born “obese.” Thanks to Obamacare, that’s no longer legal, as the consumer protection for Americans with pre-existing conditions has already gone into effect for children. It won’t be extended to all Americans until 2014 — but that doesn’t mean Obamacare hasn’t already changed the lives of adults with pre-existing conditions, too.
Through its state-based transitional Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) — a bridge program for American adults with pre-existing conditions that will cover them until the law is fully implemented — Americans like 56-year-old Arthur Yu have already been gaining coverage that was once unavailable to them. After losing his job in 2008 and running through his COBRA benefits, Yu remained uninsured for a full five years due to his diabetes and high cholesterol. “If something major happened to me, my savings would get wiped out,” he said. But after Obamacare’s passage, he was able to enroll in California’s PCIP program in 2012, giving him enormous financial — and medical — peace of mind.
2. Connie from Arizona got a $79 rebate from her insurance company in the mail.
On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that Obamacare has helped seniors save over $6 billion on their prescription drug costs by closing the so-called Medicare “donut hole” — and that’s not the only way that the law is already saving Americans money.
Because of Obamacare’s “80/20 rule” requiring insurers to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they charge customers on actual medical care rather than overhead or profits, millions of Americans have received rebate checks — totaling $1.5 billion in 2011 alone — from their insurance companies in the mail. Arizona resident Connie Kadansky spoke to CNN about her personal experience with this measure after getting a $79 rebate from her insurer last summer, saying, “It was a surprise. My insurance agent tells me that my insurance is going to skyrocket. He hates Obamacare. I read the letter and I said to myself, ‘So what’s wrong with this? This is good.'”
3. Chronically ill Jen from Illinois doesn’t have to worry about losing access to her dad’s health insurance.
One of the reform law’s most popular aspects is allowing young Americans to stay on their parents’ health plan until they’re 26. In a time of economic uncertainty, that can mean the difference between life and death, and there are bountiful stories of how this Obamacare provision has personally touched real people. Last October, teenager Jen Rubino wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in which she recounted her struggles with a rare chronic illness, and the constant worry that she would lose access to her father’s health insurance once she got older. But as Jen put it, “everything changed when President Obama signed the Affordable Health Care Act.”
In fact, over the last several years, the percentage of uninsured young adults in America dropped by record numbers, down to 27.9 percent of young people in 2011 from 33.9 percent in 2010 — meaning that 1.6 million young Americans gained coverage in just the first year of Obamacare’s implementation.