By Aurora Harris and Rosy Mota
As the presidential election heats up and candidates on both sides put forward their ideas on how to improve our nation’s healthcare system, it’s worth taking a look back to see how far we’ve come as we celebrate the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) sixth anniversary. Since the ACA became law, 20 million Americans have gained health insurance, and America’s uninsured rate is at the lowest point ever recorded, with almost 9 out of 10 non-elderly adult Americans now insured.
Millions more already-insured Americans now have better coverage because women are no longer charged more than men for their premiums, those with pre-existing conditions can’t be denied coverage, and young adults are guaranteed to stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26.
Additionally, the uninsured rate has decreased by 11 percent among both Latino and African-American 18–64-year-olds since the law went into effect.
And thanks to the ACA, the LGBT community saw a significant reduction in their uninsured rate for the last two years. In fact, according to a study by the Urban Institute, the uninsured rate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults has been almost cut in half since the middle of 2013.
Just a few years ago, Americans could be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition like cancer, HIV, or diabetes. Now no one can be denied coverage, and every health plan must cover 10 essential health benefits such as prescription medications, emergency room visits, and preventive services.
And tax credits have helped make insurance affordable for low- and middle-income Americans. 83 percent of consumers who enrolled through the Health Insurance Marketplace qualified for financial assistance to lower their monthly payments.
This all fits with what we’re seeing in Houston: the uninsured are excited to learn more about what the Affordable Care Act can mean for them and take action to protect themselves and their families. Families are truly benefitting from the Affordable Care Act.
But the work is far from over. We know that there are still thousands of Texans who can benefit from the opportunity to enroll in quality, affordable health insurance.
That’s why we’re going to build on these best practices to continue working with the uninsured in our community and ensure everyone can enroll in a plan that fits their needs and budget. Through the Enroll Gulf Coast coalition, Lesbian Health Initiative and Enroll America are working with health coverage partners and stakeholders in Greater Harris County to engage many different voices in support of an easy, accessible, and widely available enrollment process of the Affordable Care Act.
And we’ll continue to grow and empower the enrollment coalition in Houston so we can continue our legacy of success in the years to come.
On the six-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, one thing couldn’t be clearer: this law is working for Texans, and we’re excited to build on that success to get even more Texans covered.
Aurora Harris is the interim executive director for the Lesbian Health Initiative (LHI). Rosy Mota is the program manager for Enroll America.