Supporters marked the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the landmark healthcare reform law by touting its benefits for small business, disease-prevention, and more.
President Obama signed the law a year ago, which Congress approved after more than a year of acrimonious debate. It remains one of his signature achievements in office, while Republicans have pushed for its repeal.
Some provisions of the reform law have taken effect, while it will be several years for other aspects to go into effect.
Democrats on the House Small Business Committee say U.S. small businesses find it easier to secure medical coverage for their employees following implementation of a new tax credit contained within the reform law.
The tax credit provides $40 billion in relief for entrepreneurs, they say.
“Small businesses’ health premiums have skyrocketed over the last ten years, making it difficult for firms to afford coverage for their employees,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez of New York, the ranking Democrat on the small business panel. “It is clear the new tax credit is already enabling more businesses to offer their workers health insurance.”
As many as 6.7 million firms will be eligible to claim the tax credit, which the Democrats say will bring the cost of health care coverage back down to 2003 levels.
As many as 650,000 firms have begun offering coverage in 2010 that were not offering coverage in 2009, they say, adding that between 2009 and 2010, coverage rates grew from 46 percent to 59 percent after the tax credit was made available.
The American Public Health Association (APHA) marked the anniversary of the Affordable Care by calling it a groundbreaking law that is ushering in a fundamental shift in the nation’s health system to emphasize disease prevention, health promotion and wellness.
“Last year, the president and Congress made a collective commitment to reduce soaring health care costs and improve access to quality, affordable health care that has eluded millions of Americans for far too long,” says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of APHA, which describes itself as the oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world. “Thanks to their action, countless families across the country are now reaping tremendous health benefits and counting on the lifesaving provisions included in the measure to continue to protect their health and well-being.”
Established under the law, the Prevention and Public Health Fund represents the first time that the United States has made a sustained, dedicated investment in improving public health, according to APHA.
•supports critical disease and injury prevention programs in low-income and underserved communities;
•tackles a range of health concerns such as combating obesity and tobacco use and improving flu prevention; and
•strengthens state and local public health infrastructure by supporting data collection and analysis for community- and clinically based prevention activities and expanding and improving training for the public health workforce.
“On behalf of the public health community, we call on Congress to protect the Affordable Care Act and the lifesaving provisions included in the law that provide millions of Americans the opportunity to live full, healthy lives,” says Benjamin.
The Children’s Health Fund released a white paper to coincide with the anniversary, estimating that more than 5 million children aged 18 and younger will receive health care coverage from the provisions of the the reform law by 2019.
Prior to its enactment, 9.8 million children aged 18 and younger nationwide were uninsured, even with existing safety-net programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the group says. The enactment of the reform law will bring the number of uninsured children nationwide to a record low, it adds.
Meanwhile, supporters of the law say that conservatives continue to level “false attacks” against the reform legislation in their effort to paint the law as a government takeover of the U.S. healthcare system.
Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.