Two years ago today, President Obama affixed his signature to a document that would simultaneously become the pride and the bane of his first term in office: the Affordable Care Act.
While the bill, the first major piece of federal health care legislation to become law since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, has been celebrated as a milestone achievement by Democrats -- a sentiment famously expressed by Vice President Joe Biden at the bill's signing -- it has been lambasted by Republicans.
The GOP-controlled House of Representatives has voted to repeal, defund or dismantle portions of the health care law on 25 occasions, typically decrying the measure as a job-destroying, unconstitutional law that will bankrupt the federal government and lower the nation's quality of health care, while referring to the legislation as Obamacare. Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin three-days of oral arguments over the law's constitutionality that will primarily focus on the legality of its individual mandate, which requires Americans to pay a penalty if they do not obtain health insurance coverage.
The Obama administration has opted to keep a low profile on the law on its second anniversary ahead of the Supreme Court arguments next week. However, while many provisions will not go into effect until 2014, this week the administration released a new report highlighting some of the benefits that have already taken affect since the health care law's passage.
According to the administration, Americans who have thus far benefited from the law include:
- 2.5 million more young adults who can now remain on their parents' health insurance plans until the age of 26
- Children with pre-existing conditions who now cannot legally be denied coverage
- The approximately 5.1 million people with Medicare who saved an average of $635 on the cost of prescription drugs, as well as the 32.4 million Medicare-covered seniors who received at least one preventative benefit without cost-sharing last year
- 54 million people with private health insurance who received at least one new preventative service without cost-sharing
- Individuals with private health insurance plans who benefited from new requirements that insurers spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on actual health care and publicly justify the reason for rate hikes surpassing 10 percent
In a statement, President Obama praised the positive impact these changes have had on working families, seniors and low-income Americans.
Today, two years after we passed health care reform, more young adults have insurance, more seniors are saving money on their prescription drugs, and more Americans can rest easy knowing they won't be dropped from their insurance plans if they get sick, Obama said. The law has made a difference for millions of Americans, and over time, it will help give even more working and middle-class families the security they deserve.
For its part, the Republican National Committee released a new Internet video mocking the health care overhaul in reaction to Obama's decision to stay low-key on the second anniversary on what has been described as his signature legislative achievement.
The video features a graphic of an illustrated bill marked ObamaCare crying on Capitol Hill because the White House forgot its birthday.
Nobody in America likes me, the bill says. Even Obama won't celebrate my birthday now!