Washington, D.C., March 20, 2012 — As the Affordable Care Act reaches its two-year anniversary on Friday, the American Public Health Association recognizes the health reform measure’s significant achievements in and enormous promise for protecting and improving the nation’s health.
“In the last two years, we have seen a tectonic shift in our approach to health in this country,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of APHA. “Not only are we expanding access to care for millions of Americans, we are transforming our health system to elevate prevention and wellness as a primary goal. Yes, we want to ensure everybody gets quality care when they are sick, but more importantly, we want to keep people well in the first place.”
Most notably, the law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund mandates funding for public health and prevention efforts that are already being implemented in communities across the country, including initiatives that:
- provide for preventive health screenings to detect disease early before it is most harmful;
- address a range of the most pressing and expensive chronic health concerns, such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases and tobacco use;
- strengthen state and local public health infrastructure by supporting workforce training, data collection and analysis, and high-quality equipment and tools that public health practitioners need to keep all safe every day; and
- support critical clinical and community-based prevention programs for all aspects of society.
“Our goal is to make the ‘healthy choice the easy choice,’” said Benjamin. “These remarkable public health interventions will help Americans live safer, healthier lives.”
APHA also celebrates the life-saving benefits that are already a reality for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act, including:
- a requirement that all health plans must allow children to remain on their parents' plans until age 26;
- a ban on lifetime benefit limits and on denying coverage to young people due to a pre-existing condition; and
- a requirement that all qualified health plans must cover the cost of preventive services rated A or B by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, such as recommended vaccines and preventive care and screenings for women.
While the law’s already benefitting millions of Americans — and many more will benefit in the years ahead as coverage expansions take effect — much is also at risk. The Supreme Court hears arguments next week about several of the law’s key provisions, including the public health and prevention components, which APHA strongly supports. In addition, if the law is not fully funded, implementation of many important provisions, including the Prevention Fund, is at risk.
“Today, we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Tomorrow, we roll up our sleeves and get back to work,” said Benjamin. “The health of the American people is at stake. We can’t stop now.”