The Supreme Court’s ruling today confirmed what the Constitution and 200 years of precedent have already made clear: The Affordable Care Act is undoubtedly constitutional.
With this ruling comes a victory for the millions of Americans who are already benefiting from the health reform law, whether it’s the sick child who can no longer be denied insurance or the senior who can finally afford her prescription drugs. And very soon, the Affordable Care Act will go even further to protect tens of millions more from ever being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
Here are the top five benefits of the Affordable Care Act that are making, and will continue to make, health care work for every American.
Obamacare protects those with pre-existing conditions
The 2010 health law created the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, which includes coverage for primary and specialty care, hospital services, and prescription drugs. To date, more than 50,000 Americans have enrolled in this new plan, a nearly 400 percent increase in enrollment since November 2010.
Obamacare casts a wider net for coverage
So far 2.5 million additional young adults, including 1.3 million minorities, have gained access to coverage, or 73 percent of the nation’s young adults. What’s more, the health law has increased funding for community health centers and school-based health centers, helping those in medically underserved areas of the country.
Obamacare enhances coverage for minorities and women
As many as 9 million low-income Latinos will gain health-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s expanded Medicaid eligibility. And because women of color account for more than half of all uninsured women, by 2014 with Medicaid’s expanded eligibility, up to 10.3 million women will gain health care coverage.
New provisions in the act also will eliminate “gender rating,” where women are charged higher premiums than men for identical benefits. And the Affordable Care Act vastly improves coverage for gay and transgender Americans, including expanded data collection to better understand health disparities and nondiscrimination preventions.
Obamacare decreases health care costs for all
The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance companies from charging higher premiums, limiting benefits, or denying coverage to those who need it starting in 2014. The Affordable Care Act also closes the Medicare “donut hole” gap by 2020. Seniors and persons with disabilities currently receive a discount on covered brand-name prescription drugs if they’re in said donut hole. (In 2011 alone nearly 4 million seniors saved more than $2.1 billion on prescription drugs—an average of $604 per person.)
The Affordable Care Act also requires insurance plans to cover important preventive services, including critical immunizations, numerous health screenings, and counseling services, with no cost-sharing by women. In 2011 alone more than 85 million people—32.5 million Medicare beneficiaries and 54 million Americans with private insurance—including seniors, women, and persons with disabilities, accessed these critical preventive services for free.
Obamacare creates jobs and helps small businesses
The Affordable Care Act created more than 19,000 new jobs in community health centers across the country. And more than 4 million small businesses were eligible to receive a tax credit to make health coverage more affordable for their employees.
These benefits, and many more upheld by the Supreme Court it its ruling on the Affordable Care Act, are plain for all to see. Obamacare has worked, is working, and will continue to work to improve the lives of millions of Americans. Today’s victory marks an important step in the right direction for the continued improvement of our nation’s health care system.
Giselle Childs is an Assistant Managing Editor at the Center for American Progress.