"The Affordable Care Act is not just a website. It's much more."
In spite of the troubled launch of healthcare.gov, President Obama's statement provided a timely reminder of everything else that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is for so many people. And for the over one million Americans who have managed to enroll during the first half of open enrollment, the statement has bite.
For months, the focus was on a date -- October 1 -- the day when the health insurance marketplace opened for business. With all the attention on this one date, everyone seemed to forget about the significant and needed changes that the ACA ushered in.
This is the "much more" that President Obama was talking about and the true heart of the ACA. It is the expanded coverage of preventive care without expensive co-pays and increased access to Medicaid for those who are struggling the most. It is the new protections for consumers putting an end to unfair insurance company practices. Above all, it is the peace of mind that comes with having coverage and an opportunity at good health.
And for families like the Bouthavongs, the "more" is real. The Bouthavongs are your storied American Dream, refugees from Laos, they came to America with a desire to improve their lives. They did the right things and played by the rules and for thirty years, the husband worked at the same job to provide for his family. Yet, through no fault of their own, their grown children struggled. Their daughter pushed herself through college but at 32, makes do on a combination of temporary and factory jobs, none of which provide insurance. She is not much different than the one-third of part time and uninsured workers praying each day they don't get sick.
Her brother fared worse and hasn't been able to find a steady job. Hard on their luck and facing mounting medical bills, both were previously denied Medicaid because before the ACA, simply being poor was not enough.
In a post-ACA America, however, the answer was different. Because both young adults live in Illinois -- a state that took the fiscally prudent decision and expanded its Medicaid program -- they now qualify for Medicaid.
May Wong knows the ACA is real. As an immigrant from China and educated as a nurse, she has struggled to get a job in the health care field because she does not speak English well enough. Uninsured for years, she had an accident and was left with a medical bill totaling more than $2,000 that she struggled for two years to pay off. She lived in fear every day of what might happen if she got sick again. Last month, she enrolled in insurance she could actually afford through the Marketplace.
In the past, Sarah Chang couldn't get private health insurance. The reason: she had a pre-existing condition. As a result, she fell into the pool of the millions of uninsurable Americans. Now, that will never happen again.
This is tangible. This is what a better America looks like. This is what the President means when he says the ACA is more than just a website.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.