Ten years ago, the Affordable Care Act became law. As a provider at Sea Mar Community Health Centers, I see every day how the ACA’s changes to our health care system benefit patients and the health of our entire community. But, while health care providers are celebrating this anniversary, we’re also remaining vigilant to protect the advances the ACA has made.
At Sea Mar Community Health Centers’ Vancouver Clinics, these advances include a significant increase in the number of our patients with insurance coverage. Washington state’s decision to expand Medicaid under the ACA gets credit for this achievement. The benefits of this coverage, called Apple Health in Washington, can’t be overstated. Our patients have increased their access to preventive and specialty care and are able to manage chronic health conditions, which enable them to be more productive community members. As a result, our individual patients and our entire community are healthier.
At Sea Mar, we saw uninsured patients in Clark County drop from 29 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2018. This significant reduction means more patients now have insurance and peace of mind knowing they can access the health care they need. In Clark County, Sea Mar has added clinics in Vancouver and Battle Ground to meet the new demand for services. We continually hear from our patients how grateful they are to have services close by in their community that accept their insurance. One patient shares that she previously couldn’t find a clinic that would take her insurance. She and her daughter needed to take a bus ride an hour one way to get care. Now they can go to Sea Mar near their home in Vancouver.
But over the past several years, the ACA has been under ongoing attack, including congressional efforts to repeal it and legal challenges. While it has largely withstood efforts to undermine it, the threats persist, despite the law being more popular among the general public than ever before.
In the past decade, the ACA has transformed our health care system in ways that many people now take for granted. It’s hard to imagine taking away protections for people with pre-existing conditions, reintroducing lifetime limits on health coverage, or reducing support for Medicare prescription drug coverage. These are just a few of the benefits now woven into the fabric of our health care system.
Our health care system is stronger as a result. The ACA’s Medicaid expansion has improved affordability of care and reduced uncompensated care costs for hospitals and clinics, which has allowed community health centers like Sea Mar to expand services and increase access to care for the community.
With rising concern about the spread of coronavirus, it’s clear that each person’s health can impact the overall community’s well-being. The health of your neighbors, co-workers, and classmates matters. So join us in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and the benefits that it’s brought Clark County and our state. I also urge you to call on our state and congressional leaders to work hard to make another 10 years of health care advances a reality.
Dr. Tony Stupski of Vancouver is a physician and medical director at the Sea Mar Vancouver Medical Clinic. He has interests in the unique health needs of immigrants and refugees and infectious diseases.