(Bloomberg View) — When President Barack Obama signed the two bills that created the Affordable Care Act (ACA), six years ago this week, he addressed the rancor the health care debate had inspired with a call to resist cynicism. “We are not a nation that does what’s easy,” he said. “We are a nation that does what is hard. What is necessary. What is right. Here, in this country, we shape our own destiny.”
It hasn’t been easy, and there have been challenges along the way, but we have made significant progress. Today, 20 million people have gained coverage because of the health law. Health care prices have risen at the slowest rate in five decades. And with new protections and benefits, everyone’s insurance is higher quality, no matter where it’s purchased.
Today, thanks to the law, families across the country can get preventive care at no extra cost. They no longer have to worry about annual or lifetime caps on coverage. And they no longer have to worry about being denied insurance because they survived cancer or live with a chronic condition.
These gains are historic, but health care reform has always been about more than insurance. It’s also about building a health care system that puts patients in the center and works better for all Americans.
We have some of the best doctors in the world, but with high costs, uncoordinated care and a complex and confusing system, many Americans, both insured and uninsured, have been unsatisfied with their health care experience.
Fortunately, the health care law gave us new tools to improve how we deliver care and encourage innovation.
Imagine your sister needs knee surgery. From the emergency room to surgery, to recovery and a physical therapist, she meets with dozens of doctors, nurses and specialists. Right now, most insurance pays for each test, treatment or procedure separately. So everyone is focused solely on their role, not on working together. Without communication, they might order the same X-ray or blood test twice, and your sister may have to pay. And they might not have the time to sit down and make sure she understands how to avoid reinjuring her knee.
This kind of care doesn’t prioritize quality, leaving us with higher costs. Thanks to the health law, we’re moving to a system that thinks of care in terms of how good, not how much.
If your sister were a patient in certain medical practices today, her doctors would work as a team. Her ER doctors would electronically share her X-rays with orthopedic specialists. Her family physician would tell her physical therapist about her asthma. Her nurses would take the time to make sure she understands her treatments. And a care coordinator would remind her about her follow-up care.
The federal government is working to make this patient-centered care the norm, not the exception. We’re getting there in three ways.