Vivent Health Statement on Affordable Care Act Enrollment

This recent news on the Affordable Care Act is a cause for celebration for all of us. More than 500,000 people signed up for health insurance coverage during a ‘Special Enrollment Period’ established by President Biden, lasting until August 2021.

This achievement calls for an important moment, or maybe even longer, to set aside the politics that swirl around and engulf the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, to focus on the impact of this great news.

Over the past four years, the percentage of Americans without health insurance has been on a steady increase. More than 2 million more of our friends and neighbors as compared to in 2016. The Covid-19 pandemic is resulting in 22 million workers having lost their job, adding another estimated 3.5 million Americans have joined the ranks of the uninsured. It is indisputable that Americans not having health care coverage is a problem that has gotten worse over the last half decade.

We have long known that delayed care equals greater disease burden. Missed opportunities for preventative care, missed diagnoses, missed early intervention and missed treatment all contribute to greater disease burden. This is true across most if not all diseases including as an example cancer, heart disease, mental health. The fight against HIV demonstrates this so clearly. Approximately 1/3 of people diagnosed with HIV are concurrently diagnosed with AIDS an indication of significant disease progression and ultimately much higher costs. Health care coverage for people is a powerful strategy to preempt unnecessary illness and health care costs. Again, the Vivent Health HIV Medical Home is a clear example of the value of the right care at the right time with our patients leading the country in health outcomes.

So the good news in recent headlines:

1. Personal responsibility.  500,000 people and all their family members are taking personal responsibility for their health and wellbeing. Coverage may have been eliminated because of a job loss, health care costs may have become unaffordable, or high quality, care may seem to be unavailable for a host of other reasons. Whatever the cause they have taken the steps necessary to be good health care consumers and they should be applauded for that.

2. Health care costs will go down. People without health care coverage still get health care. They may go to emergency rooms or non-urgent matters or have their health care bills written off as uncollectable.  This is called uncompensated care. Uncompensated care is a substantial factor in the high and rising health care costs in our country. Lack of insurance forces individuals to forego earlier, less costly preventative care or forces them to access care in far more costly venue. For all of us, the reduction in the number of uninsured Americans will help stymie the cost of health care. The Vivent Health HIV Medical Home demonstrates the cost savings achievable when everyone is gets care – even if they don’t have coverage – by saving millions of dollars each year.

3. Closing the racial disparity gap. The latest data show that a greater percentage of new enrollees are African American. The health care disparities they face are enormous – Black women died of Covid-19 at a rate 4 times greater than white men. African Americans represent 12% of our country and account for 43% of HIV cases. A driving force, although not the only one, is the lack of health care coverage that the Affordable Care Act can overcome.  It can also substantially contribute to closing racial health care disparities.

Good health care news is hard to come by these days. Whether it’s the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the water crisis in communities like Flint, Michigan, high rates of opioid dependency, or the decreasing life expectancy in the United States, the news can be pretty grim.

Let’s use this good news on Affordable Care Act enrollment as a jumping off point. Let’s get even more people enrolled during the ongoing Special Enrollment Period. And, let’s invest in systems that assure full access to care, deliver outstanding outcomes and save dollars.