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Happy Birthday, ACA!

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010. I was lucky enough to be living and working in Washington, DC as the historic law was debated, voted on, and then passed into law.

Now, ten years later, and a happy resident of the state of Colorado, I’m reflecting on how the law has impacted our local community. The ACA aimed to reform the insurance market by making it easier for individuals to shop for and buy comprehensive, affordable health insurance. The ACA also allowed states to expand eligibility for their Medicaid programs which means that more people could enroll in the program and access the health care they need.

So, what does this mean for Colorado?

  • Colorado has made historic gains in Medicaid coverage and seen significant reductions in the number of Coloradans without insurance. In 2019, more than 380,000 of the 1.3 million Coloradans who were enrolled in Medicaid were covered because of the ACA’s expansion.
  • Overall, the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) found that between 2013 and 2015, Colorado’s uninsured rate dropped from 14.3 percent to 6.7 percent, stabilizing at around 6.5 percent, where it is today.

Medicaid expansion is known to improve access to care, utilization of health care services, the affordability of health care, and financial security among the low-income population. Indeed, states that have expanded Medicaid have seen: patients seeking care earlier; increased access to behavioral health services and primary care appointments; and increased spending for opioid treatment. For example, we know that 74 percent of Coloradans had a preventive visit with their doctor in the past year – an increase of 650,000 more Coloradans are accessing preventive care since 2009.

Despite 10 years of the ACA, work remains to fully achieve the promise of affordable, accessible health care and improved health for all – an issue that state and federal policymakers will continue to debate. In fact, it was recently announced that the law will be headed back to the United States Supreme Court, making the next ten years of the Affordable Care Act uncertain.