On Wednesday, March 23, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) hosted a special livestream event to celebrate the 12th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During the event, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure delivered opening remarks about the state of the ACA and how the Biden-Harris Administration is building on the landmark law to expand access to quality, affordable health coverage and care. Following their opening remarks, additional HHS officials from across the Department participated in a panel discussion on the ACA.
As Prepared for Delivery
Twelve years ago, we made history when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.
I’m deeply proud to have helped pass the ACA as a Congressman, and to have hit the pavement to gain buy-in after its passage.
As Attorney General of California in 2020, I led the three-year-plus legal fight to defend this law before the Supreme Court. And as HHS Secretary, I’m honored keep building on the progress we’ve made by protecting and expanding the ACA.
There’s no other way to put it: The Affordable Care Act has been a game-changer.
Before the ACA, there were almost 50 million uninsured Americans who would agonize over whether to go to the doctor when they were sick, often delaying treatment over fears of high medical costs.
Health care disparities were starker. People were charged more or faced untenably high premiums because of pre-existing health conditions, and preventive care was out of reach for many people as a result, even among some people who had health insurance.
Thanks to the ACA, the number of uninsured Americans has declined significantly, from 50 million to under 30 million (in other words, less than 10 percent of the population) over the past decade.
The ACA has not only increased access to care, but also expanded Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which collectively serve 137 million Americans, and reduced disparities in coverage for millions of people, including the LGBTQI+ community and communities of color.
So today, we celebrate the 12 years of peace of mind this historic law has brought to millions of families.
Peace of mind comes with free preventive care – annual physicals, check-ups and screenings – and other essential benefits, such as emergency, rehabilitative, and ambulatory services.
Peace of mind comes with having access to mental health and substance use treatment when you need help.
Peace of mind comes with knowing women can receive free wellness visits and free birth control; young adults can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26; and kids can have vision and dental care.
But today is not just about celebrating the ACA’s achievements. It’s also about recommitting ourselves to building on this progress. And that’s exactly what we’ve done under President Biden’s leadership.
President Biden’s American Rescue Plan lowered the cost of health insurance for millions of lower- and middle-income families; four out of five people were eligible to, or qualified to, find a plan for less than $10 a month with American Rescue Plan tax credits during Open Enrollment season.
This helped a record-breaking 14.5 million Americans enroll in a quality, health insurance, including nearly six million new enrollees during the COVID-19 pandemic, when access to coverage was even more critical than ever.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed many cracks in our health care system. But thanks to the ACA, we increased coverage especially for Latinos, Black Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, families with lower incomes, and those living in states that expanded Medicaid. And we’ve reached communities that have historically been left behind with the HealthCare.gov enrollment rate, increasing by 26 percent for Hispanic Americans and 35 percent for Black Americans.
And we’re not done. We are working to increase transparency and accountability in health care to ensure people know their rights and don’t get surprise bills; we issued a national plan on reducing prescription drug costs, a comprehensive strategy to tackle the overdose epidemic, and a proposed rule to make hearing aids available over-the-counter, which could benefit nearly 30 million people.
This is just a snapshot of our work. But so much of the progress we’ve made wouldn’t have been possible without the passage of the ACA.
From Nevada to Georgia to New Hampshire, I have met with people who are coping with illness, mental health challenges, or substance use challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. I’ve met with people in places like Missouri who told us what a difference Medicaid expansion has meant to helping save a family member’s life or life-savings.
Despite the stress and distress we have confronted as a nation, I find solace knowing more Americans have coverage if they or a family member gets sick—thanks to the ACA.
As we celebrate this anniversary, I think back on all the times my three daughters got sick as kids, and all of the sleepless nights, pacing and worrying as a parent.
I was able to rest easier knowing that a doctor’s visit was just a car ride away. I want care to be in reach for everyone in America. No one should ever let the fear of cost or limited access come in the way of care.
Let’s continue this fight together so that more families across America can get the peace of mind they deserve.
Now I’d like to introduce our next speaker: As Administrator for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure has been critical in helping us build on the ACA and get more Americans enrolled in coverage. But her work on the ACA began long before this past year.
In fact, Administrator Brooks-LaSure played a key role in guiding the ACA passage and implementation. And we’re so lucky to have her continue this vital work as part of our team under President Biden. Please join me in welcoming the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.