The second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law on March 23, 2010, was overshadowed by three days of Supreme Court hearings on its constitutionality. Immediately, the pundits began handicapping the outcome. Health care reform is being discussed in the stark terms of winning and losing teams. Who will gain an edge from the decision – Democrats or Republicans?
In Connecticut, health care reform sometimes feels like a blood sport. But health care to each of us is first and foremost personal, NOT political. Access to health care, a moral imperative and a basic need of every American, should not be reduced to a “game” of politics.
Our health and the health of our friends and families is the paramount concern. When a relative is sick, we drop everything to run to their bedside. We want only the most skilled and compassionate care for them. Unfortunately, that is a pipe dream for too many people in our country and state.
Access to affordable coverage is based on a variety of different factors, some of which are connected to health, and some of which are not. Whether we work for a large or small company, whether we are married or parents, whether we are under 18 or over 65, whether our income is above or below a certain threshold or whether we have a pre-existing condition can all affect our access to coverage.
Information on the cost of that care as well as the quality and effectiveness is often unknown, and certainly not available to help consumers make informed decisions about getting the best value for their health care dollar. While the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, it holds out hope of fixing some of the worst aspects of our very arbitrary, inefficient health care system and bringing health security to a large majority of our residents.
Many key provisions have already been enacted nationally. Connecticut is one of the few states working full steam ahead to implement the ACA. Our state is deep into the planning of the major coverage expansions anticipated for January, 2014: establishment of the Health Insurance Exchange, the marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to purchase health insurance, and expansion of Medicaid to cover more low- income residents. Other efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system are also underway.
Just as important, Connecticut was well on its way to implementing significant health reform even before the ACA passed. Many aspects of the SustiNet plan continue to move forward through the work of the SustiNet Health Care Cabinet and several of its work groups.
Even if the Supreme Court partially or totally overturns the ACA, Connecticut is well-positioned to continue to move forward. So, while we are hoping for the best, we can certainly say we are prepared for the worst. To succeed, however, we will need to keep the needs of consumers foremost in our hearts and minds as we work to protect and improve access to quality, affordable health care. Unless we implement policies that benefit consumers, we will all lose.
[Jill Zorn is the senior program officer at Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut.]