President Barack Obama greets Linda and Russ Dickson, a Texas couple who wrote a letter to the President about the Affordable Care Act, at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, April 10, 2014. Photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama autographs a sign while greeting neighbors and supporters before an event in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., April 10, 2012. Photo by Pete Souza
Tens of thousands of Minnesotans gained health coverage between 2013 and 2015, pushing the state’s uninsured rate to an all-time low as federal health reform took hold across the state. A biannual survey released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota showed that 213,000 more residents had health insurance last year compared to 2013. The share of Minnesotans lacking coverage plummeted from 8.2 percent to 4.3 percent, with progress in virtually all demographic groups.
State officials hailed the role of MNsure, despite vexing technical problems for the online marketplace, for connecting more Minnesotans with coverage they previously lacked or couldn’t afford. Expanded eligibility for the state’s Medicaid program helped as well, along with new rules allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health plans. The results were “an unprecedented advance for the health and security of Minnesota families — particularly those who had previously been lost in the gaps of our system,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, state health commissioner.
Ryan joined the Navy when he was 20 years old, and he was deployed to Iraq for the first time a few years later. He served on a team that disarmed roadside bombs and IEDs, and when those bombs exploded, they would rush to the scene to clear any remaining explosives while sorting through unimaginable wreckage and carnage. In recognition of his incredible valour, Ryan was awarded a Bronze Star and an Army Commendation Medal. But when Ryan returned home to his wife and two young daughters after his second deployment, the war stayed with him. He had constant splitting headaches, nightmares and panic attacks, and his ears just wouldn’t stop ringing. He would pace his home at night, worried that his family was in danger. One evening, he finally hit rock bottom. After laying awake in bed crying, he got up, headed to the bathroom, and prepared to take his own life. Through my work with service members and veterans as part of Joining Forces – the initiative Dr Jill Biden and I launched to rally Americans to honour and support our veterans and military families – I’ve seen that Ryan’s experience isn’t unique.
But the veterans and service members who do struggle are not alone – not by a long shot. In fact, roughly one in five adults – more than 40 million Americans – suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition like depression or anxiety. These conditions affect people of every age and every background: our kids and grandparents, our friends and neighbours. That’s why the Affordable Care Act expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections for more than 60 million Americans and required new plans to cover depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for kids. That’s also why my husband put more mental health counsellors in place for veterans and signed a bill to help prevent veteran suicide.
When Alexander Star was 15 years old, he thought he was the picture of health, especially after he made the varsity basketball team. But when he told one of his teachers he needed to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes, she rightly told him he should be checked for diabetes. Frequent urination is a classic warning sign. When the doctors tested Star’s blood glucose level, it was 1,300 mg/dL – dangerously high considering that even in people with diabetes the goal is to keep blood glucose levels between about 100 and 150 mg/dL. “The doctors wondered why I wasn’t in a coma,” says Star, who is now a 29-year-old recording artist/songwriter living in Florida. “That was the beginning of my journey as a type 1 diabetic.”
He was covered under his father’s insurance plan until he turned 26 – when he suddenly found himself without health insurance he could afford. “The COBRA plan I was on shot up from $120 a month to $512 a month for the exact same plan, a cost that was not do-able for me,” Star says. Fortunately, the Obamacare marketplace opened up soon after and he enrolled in a new plan. “If it wasn’t for Obamacare, I don’t know how I’d be capable of taking care of myself,” Star says. “Even if I had a lot of money, before Obamacare they could still decline me because I have a pre-existing condition.” Star signed up for a plan with better coverage and more personal attention than he received from his previous plan. His premiums are around $150 a month and he doesn’t pay anything extra for his insulin pump or continuous blood glucose monitor – diabetes management options his previous provider never even told him about.
a new paper shows one place where the law has been a clear success: narrowing the race gap in health insurance. So why aren’t more Democrats shouting that from the rooftops. In 2013, the year before most of the law’s provisions for subsidized insurance took effect, non-elderly blacks were 47 percent more likely than whites to be uninsured.
For American Indians, that figure was 93 percent; for Hispanics, 120 percent. In 2014, not only did the share of whites without insurance fall; the share of blacks and Asian Americans fell by more. The difference between whites and Hispanics shrank, from 14 percentage points to 11.8 percentage points. What’s odd about the race gap isn’t its persistence, but that its narrowing isn’t more celebrated as one of the law’s accomplishments. Narrowing the race gap in health insurance counts unequivocally as progress.