The Affordable Care Act is the nation’s health reform law enacted in March 2010. The law aims to reform both our private and public health insurance systems, in order to expand coverage to 24 million Americans by 2023. Among the law's many goals: increase benefits and lower costs for consumers, provide new funding for public health and prevention, bolster our health care and public health workforce and infrastructure, foster innovation and quality in our system, and more.
There are many reasons health reform is critically needed in the U.S., including:
- High uninsured rate: In April 2014, the CBO estimated (PDF) that 42 million Americans under the age of 65 are currently uninsured; representing about 1 out of 6 Americans in that age group. Without the ACA, the uninsured rate would continue to rise.
- Unsustainable spending: Health care spending represented 17.2 percent of our gross domestic product in 2011.
- Lack of emphasis on prevention: Today, seven in 10 deaths in the U.S. are related to chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer, which are largely preventable. Additionally, 75 percent of our health care dollars are spent treating such diseases. However, only three cents of each health care dollar spent in the U.S. (PDF) go toward prevention.
- Poor health outcomes: The U.S. spends far more on medical care than any other industrialized nation, but thranks 26 (PDF) among 36 OECD countries in terms of life expectancy.
- Health disparities: While inequities related to income and access to coverage exist across demographic lines, population-based disparities are impossible to deny.
The ACA won’t solve all of these problems overnight, but it’s an important step forward. By making health coverage more affordable and accessible and thus increasing the number of Americans with coverage, by funding community-based public health and prevention programs, and by supporting research and tracking on key health measures, the ACA can help begin to reduce disparities, improve access to preventive care, improve health outcomes and reduce the nation’s health spending.