Happy Anniversary, ACA

Today is the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing into law the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Many of the most far-reaching provisions of the health care reform law – including the launch of new health insurance exchanges for individuals and small groups, subsidies for the purchase of individual coverage, expansion of Medicaid eligibility, and the individual coverage requirement- do not take effect until January 1, 2014. However, some provisions of the law are already improving health insurance, expanding coverage to new populations, and making insurance more affordable. According to a fact sheet from Families USA, Oklahomans have already benefited from health care reform in a number of ways:

  • Over 50,000 uninsured Oklahomans under the age of 26 are now eligible to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans;
  • Some 50,000 Oklahoma Medicare recipients received a $250  rebate check in 2010 to help plug the “doughnut hole” in prescription drug coverage. In 2011, those who reach the doughnut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and will be eligible for reduced-price generic drugs;
  • Nearly 600,000 Oklahoma seniors and persons with disabilities on Medicare now enjoy access to free preventive services, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and flu shots, along with a free annual wellness visit;
  • Over 65,000 Oklahoma children with pre-existing health conditions can no longer be denied coverage by their insurance company;
  • Some 50,000 Oklahoma small businesses with 25 or fewer employees and an average wage of less than $50,000 are now eligible for tax credits to help cover up to 35 percent of the cost of health insurance premiums for their employees.

Programs under the new law are providing coverage for previously uninsured adults with pre-existing conditions through a Temporary High Risk Pool, and businesses, schools, non-profits and other entities are receiving assistance to cover the health care costs of early retirees. Oklahoma consumers are poised to benefit from a $415,000 grant for the Health Care Ombudsman Program operated by the Insurance Department and from a $1 million grant to improve the health insurance premium review process. Oklahoma has also received almost $5 million in grants from the Prevention and Public Health fund to prevent illness and promote health, and significant funding to address health professional workforce needs and support capital projects for health centers serving uninsured and low-income individuals.  As we discussed in this blog post, Oklahoma was one of only seven states to receive an Early Innovator Grant, in the amount of $54 million, to develop a high-quality health insurance exchange that will facilitate and coordinate the purchase of insurance by individuals and small businesses beginning in 2014.

More provisions of the Affordable Care Act will take effect in 2011, including several that expand choices for long term care and provide new incentives to promote preventive care and wellness in Medicaid and Medicare. In addition, some of the tax changes that help pay for health care reform, including changes to tax-free health savings accounts, take effect this year. There is no question that the Affordable Care Act will remain controversial and that battles and skirmishes over the law will play out in Congress, statehouses and courthouses over the next several years. For now, however, we believe it is worth celebrating the real, if incremental, progress the law has made in expanding access to quality health care for a large number of Oklahomans.


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

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