2014, which saw full implementation of Obamacare, has registered some historical feats in the U.S. Healthcare system. The Affordable Care Act is responsible for a lot of good things that happened this past year. However, at the same time, there is still scope for improvement and moving faster to the collective aim of universal coverage and reduced healthcare spending. Let’s take a look at the ups and downs in US healthcare in 2014.
1. The number of uninsured in the system has dropped to the lowest in years. The Affordable Care Act has added about 9.7 million people to the insured pool, and the number of uninsured has dropped from 14.4 percent in 2013 to 11.3 percent by the beginning of the second enrollment period. According to available data, that is the highest drop in the ratio of uninsured in the last four decades. The enrollment figures under Obamacare are similar to what the nation witnessed when Medicaid and Medicare started enrolling people back in 1966. The credit of this stellar enrollment spree goes to the provisions of ACA that allow people to avail affordable insurance even with preexisting medical conditions at federally subsidized premiums.
2. There is a stronger hold on rising healthcare costs. For the next few years, experts can safely say that healthcare inflation will only clock at 6.5 percent in 2014, which is a full percentage point less than 7.5 percent of 2013. With Obamacare holding insurance firms in premiums and other ancillary products, the rise in costs will not be excessive. True, the rise in costs due to caring for the newly insured, which tend to be sicker, will be substantial but the rate of growth will continue to be the lowest since 1966.
3. The ACA has also reduced the healthcare disparity between races and classes. The most prevalent reduction in disparity is quality of health insurance available to people at the lowest income groups. With federal subsidies, ACA has made it easier for low-income groups to get Silver plans without shelling out a fortune from their annual income. With these subsidies, people at low-income groups are enjoying the same coverage benefits like people at higher income levels. Similarly, racial disparities have reduced in this period. The quality measures in treatments and services for people suffering from heart problems ranked similar for people of different races. The uninsured rates in Hispanic and African American communities have always been high, but with ACA, there is a noticeable drop in uninsured across communities. The rate of uninsured Hispanics is expected to drop to 16 percent in 2016 from 31 percent, while the same rate for African Americans will drop to 11 percent from 20 percent.
The Affordable Care Act has made noticeable improvements to the state of healthcare, but there is still a long way to go. Other than these avenues, here are some aspects of the U.S. Healthcare system that still need attention.
1. Even though we are holding the healthcare spending per year to lower levels, our country still spends the most on healthcare in developed nations across the world. We spend about 18 percent of our GDP on healthcare, a figure that is alarmingly higher than all other developed nations in our league. Even after spending the most on healthcare, we are quite far in terms of mortality rates and longevity compared to other developed nations.
2. Although we are experiencing better coverage and quality, unbiased insurance cover, there is still a huge gap in dental and mental health services for adults. The ACA has made a difference in dental health for children, but adults do not have any such improvements in access.
3. Although our health insurance systems are working in a renewed, rejuvenated fashion, a lot of Americans are still experiencing medical debt like never before. Millions have filed for bankruptcy due to medical debt, and even in 2015, after one year of full action ACA coverage, families face the risk of running bills up in thousands, which is definitely out of budget for most families.
4. Even after full implementation of the law, the Obama administration expects that 30 million Americans will still remain uninsured. We are still quite far from universal coverage, and the administration acknowledges that.
The year 2014 has seen a lot of action that has ultimately improved the healthcare outcome for the entire nation, but we are still lagging behind other developed nations. The year 2015 should bring better results and avenues of action for the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration.