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The Affordable Care Act on March 23 will reach a milestone many thought unlikely — it turns 10.
The past decade for the health law has been filled with controversy and several near-death experiences. But the law also brought health coverage to millions of Americans and laid the groundwork for a shift to a health system that pays for quality rather than quantity.
Yet the future of the law remains in doubt. Many progressive Democrats would like to scrap it in favor of a “Medicare for All” system that would be fully financed by the federal government. Republicans would still like to repeal or substantially alter it. And the Supreme Court recently accepted another case that could invalidate the law in its entirety.
In this special episode of KHN’s “What the Health?” host Julie Rovner interviews Kathleen Sebelius, who was secretary of Health and Human Services during the development, passage and implementation of the health law.
Then Rovner, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News, who have all covered the law from the start, discuss the ACA’s past, present and future.
Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:
- Although the creation of the ACA is often attributed to the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress at the time, work on a health care plan actually began well before then with small-group meetings among stakeholders, congressional hearings across the country and efforts by Sen. Ted Kennedy to galvanize interest. Much of those interactions were bipartisan and included industry leaders too.
- Despite the vehement Republican opposition to the ACA and its many critical junctures (the death of Kennedy and his replacement by Republican Scott Brown; two tight Supreme Court decisions; and the calamitous debut of the marketplace website, among other issues), the law has proved popular. When Republicans gained control of the White House and Congress, their efforts to repeal the law helped focus consumers’ interest on the law and safeguard it.
- How will the November election affect the law? If President Donald Trump is reelected, he is unlikely to renew the effort to repeal the law, but that doesn’t mean the assault on the law is over. Efforts to change the ACA could continue through the courts and through administrative rulemaking.
- If a Democrat is elected, modifications to the law are generally expected to be incremental and perhaps deal with changes such as expanding the number of people getting subsidies and fix some glitches in the law.
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