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After five years, consumers have embraced the Affordable Care Act


Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law five years ago, Washingtonians have sent a powerful message: The Affordable Care Act is working, and the quality healthcare coverage choices offered on Washington Healthplanfinder are what consumers need, want and like. They have also made it clear they don’t want this coverage taken away.

Thanks to what’s commonly known as Obamacare, more than 160,000 Washingtonians have been able to buy affordable healthcare through the Washington Healthplanfinder—three out of four of them through the plan’s financial assistance. In King County we’ve cut the percentage of adults without health insurance by nearly half.

The law achieved these results in three stages. First, everyone in this state received the security and peace of mind of knowing they could not be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. Second, we changed the rules so that young people can stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26. And third, we created new access to insurance by expanding Medicaid for low-income adults and creating an affordable insurance option, the “health exchange” known as Washington Healthplanfinder.

In King County, our “all hands on deck” approach lifted the barriers of geography, race and language to enroll more than 200,000 people in either health insurance or Medicaid. Our countywide effort was praised by the White House as an effective and innovative approach that should be replicated across the nation.

All told, nearly 1.8 million people in Washington now no longer need to choose between getting a checkup or paying a bill, or fear that a devastating accident could plunge them into debt or bankruptcy. These are a mom whose cancerous lump is found in time to intervene; a dad who can afford the prescription to keep his blood pressure in check; children who can stay on their parents’ plan while they continue their education or start a career.

We all benefit from having everyone covered. The growth in healthcare costs is at an historic low since the Affordable Care Act took effect, and people are getting the care they need. 

Nationwide, the Affordable Care Act has led to the largest reduction in the uninsured rate in nearly five decades, with more than 16 million previously uninsured people newly enrolled. This state’s decision to expand Medicaid also means that “safety net” hospitals like the county’s Harborview Medical Center have to pay for far less uncompensated care.

Taken together, the Affordable Care Act is not just about a new way to buy insurance; it’s about a health system that prioritizes access, affordability and quality for everyone. Five years strong, the Affordable Care Act is working, and all of us – families, businesses and taxpayers – are better off as a result.

Let’s keep it that way.

Dow Constantine is King County Executive. Susan Johnson is Regional Director, HHS Region 10

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