14 Years of Obamacare

Mar 20, 2024

This year, the Affordable Care Act turned 14 years gold!

This Saturday, March 23rd marks the 14th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Commonly referred to as Obamacare, this is a moment to reflect on the deep impact this revolutionary legislation has had on the healthcare landscape in the United States. When it was enacted in 2010, the ACA’s aim was to increase access to affordable healthcare for millions of Americans, improve the quality of care, and address gaps in health results.

Since then, this sweeping, groundbreaking law has improved the health of all Americans, including children, women and families, men, older adults, communities of color, those with disabilities, and those who are LGBTQI+. Because of the ACA, protections are in place for people with preexisting conditions and millions nationwide now have health care coverage without annual and lifetime limits.

One important aspect of the ACA’s impact has been its influence on addressing social determinants of health, a key focus area for social workers. The ACA has played a substantial part in reducing racial and ethnic health disparities by broadening access to healthcare services, including mental health services, preventive care, maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs, and treatment for substance-use disorders.

By providing coverage for preventive services and essential health benefits without cost-sharing, the ACA has helped individuals and their families get the care they need not only to stay healthy, but to address any of their underlying health concerns. Enrollment in ACA plans has reached high levels since its implementation, with more than 21 million Americans gaining coverage through the health insurance marketplace during Open Enrollment for 2024. Today, 40 states and D.C. have expanded Medicaid to provide health insurance coverage and health care access to more individuals and families than ever before.

But how has this increase in coverage had a positive impact on addressing the social determinants of health? Those who lacked access to healthcare services in the past, are now able to get the care they need to improve their health. Social workers have played a crucial role in helping individuals navigate the complexities of the healthcare system, by connecting them with resources and support services, and addressing the social determinants of health that directly affect their well-being. Over the past decade, the ACA has expanded opportunities for interdisciplinary models of care. That includes social workers in health institutions and community-based settings. Social workers are essential team members in hospitals, primary care, specialty care, and community-based organizations.

With the expansion of coverage under the ACA, social workers have been able to reach more individuals and families in need, give them the resources and support they require, and address the social determinants of health and ensure that their overall health and well-being is improved.

Social workers play a vital role in this process, advocating for their clients, connecting them with resources, and addressing the underlying social factors that directly affect their health. They have and will always continue to work tirelessly, helping those in need and supporting health equity, and well-being for all,

As we look towards the future, it is essential to continue building on the progress made under the Affordable Care Act and persistently address social determinants of health in order to create a healthier and more equitable society for all.

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