The Affordable Care Act (ACA), if implemented as passed, will improve the financial security of Californians, and in particular that of low and middle-income Californians. While reducing the strain of medical bills and health insurance costs on family budgets is a major aim of the legislation, it also offers tools to individuals and communities as they attempt to reduce the “upstream” cost of poor health.
The ACA bridges the health-wealth connection in four major ways:
1) Expanding Health Insurance Coverage: Access to health insurance improves health outcomes. People who are healthy are able to work, provide for their families, and contribute to the economic and social life of their communities. Much as Medicare did for seniors and the disabled more than four decades ago, the ACA will reduce the financial burden of paying for health care for middle-income and low-income Americans.
2) Improving Coverage Quality and Reducing Medical Debt: The ACA’s provisions, such as strengthening consumer protections, eliminating caps on insurance benefits, and ending the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions, will reduce the number of Californians, and Americans, subjected to crushing medical debt.
3) Simplifying Eligibility for Public Programs: By expanding coverage and streamlining eligibility for Medi-Cal and the newly-formed California health benefit exchange, the ACA will help to reduce barriers to public programs through simplifying rules and using technology to determine eligibility for different sources of coverage. It also provides a model for determining eligibility and receiving services for other social welfare programs that may be emulated by other state agencies.
4) Addressing Social Determinants of Health: Major elements of the ACA and proposed state-level reforms directly reduce the burden of medical spending on middle and low-income Californians. Other sections of the ACA encourage health promotion and the maintenance of individual and community health that makes the pursuit of financial opportunity possible. There are interventions beyond the medical system that influence health, such as access to quality education, nutritious food, healthy homes and workplaces, and a safe physical environment. Many of these are fostered by the ACA.
The full policy brief is at right under "Related Files."