It’s no secret that the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, is facing an uncertain future. The incoming administration has pledged to repeal the law and offer an alternative in its place. But this uncertain future should not keep you from taking advantage of what is available to you and your loved ones today.
Thursday is the deadline to ensure coverage under the ACA when the calendar turns to 2017. This goes for both uninsured Americans seeking coverage and those who need to re-enroll. Missing the deadline doesn’t mean you’re out; it just means you won’t have coverage Jan. 1. The final day to enroll is Jan. 31 for coverage that will start March 1.
We don’t know what changes will occur to the ACA or when they’ll go into effect. But we do know it’s quite likely that you will need medical care before lawmakers decide what they are going to do. So on behalf of the American Heart Association — an organization with a mission to improve the health of all Americans — I urge you to meet the Dec. 15 deadline to protect you and your loved ones.
Over the past three years, the ACA has provided health coverage to millions of people, including an estimated 7.3 million Americans confronted with cardiovascular diseases and its risk factors.
We also know that while it is important that all Americans have access to the care they need, we also must keep people from ever developing those problems. The ACA provides important preventative coverage such as blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, smoking cessation services, behavioral counseling for obesity and access to primary care and the medications needed to effective manage risk factors and diseases.
Simply put, having insurance coverage matters.
Consider this: People who lack health insurance experience up to a 56 percent higher risk of death from stroke than those who are insured. The uninsured and underinsured are also less likely to take needed medications and to forego preventive care. Having coverage can literally be the difference between life or death for someone with a cardiovascular disease, and it also protects families from devastating medical bills that can result from inadequate coverage.
There has been a lot of talk about the importance of protections relating to pre-existing conditions. Before the ACA, heart and stroke patients struggled to find companies willing to offer them adequate coverage at an affordable cost. For years, families with a baby born with a heart problem had to worry about whether they could get insurance coverage for their child, and wonder if the coverage was adequate to cover their medical expenses. The law frees families to focus on their loved ones and their care, recovery and rehabilitation without worrying about medical bills piling up.
Enrolling in coverage at HealthCare.gov should be easier than ever. Improvements to the website include Plan Compare 2.0, which takes users through the process step-by-step.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average consumer can choose from 30 health plans, and more than 70 percent of consumers will be able to purchase plans for less than $75 per month, while 85 percent of Marketplace-eligible uninsured Americans could qualify for tax credits to help make premiums affordable.
The Affordable Care Act has made it possible for millions of Americans fighting cardiovascular diseases to focus on improving their health, instead of worrying about whether they can obtain or afford the quality care they deserve, and we are proud to continue our work to enroll as many Americans as possible.
While the future is uncertain — for each of us, and for the options available to all of us under ACA — the most important thing to do right now is ensure you are covered.