The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, AKA “Obamacare,” was signed into law five years ago this week.
Since then, 16 million Americans—who before struggled with uncertainty, bankruptcy, and a lack of access to basic care—now have health insurance. Speaking on the ACA’s anniversary, President Barack Obama said it was “working better than many of us—including me—anticipated.” California is no exception to the law’s success.
In honor of the ACA’s fifth birthday, here are five ways the law has impacted California, by the numbers:
4.1 million: The number of previously uninsured Californians who now have health coverage. Covered California, our state’s exchange, has enrolled 1.4 million people. About a third signed up in the last year, alone. In addition, the ACA extended coverage under Medi-Cal to 2.7 million more Californians.
Taken together, that’s more than half of the 6 million thought to be uninsured in the state when the bill passed.
41 percent: The number of enrollees this year who are Latino or African-American, up from 33 percent in 2014. The difference is attributed to targeted enrollment efforts, including The California Endowment’s Get Covered/Asegúrate campaign. According to our research, 64 percent of Latino Californians have seen a PSA or are aware of Asegúrate. More young people are signing up, too. The 18-34 age group accounted for 34 percent of enrollments in the last year. These are the groups analysts have been worried about reaching, and the numbers show real, tangible progress.
360,000-500,000: The number of undocumented Californians potentially eligible for Medi-Cal, as estimated by UC Berkeley’s Labor Center. The ACA generally excludes undocumented Americans from coverage, which is a real problem, especially in California. An estimated 2.6 million undocumented immigrants live here—the most in any state. There is one exception: residents who qualify under the president’s Deferred Action programs (called DACA and DAPA) may be able sign up for Medi-Cal. Owing to the complicated web of overlapping laws, it’s quite possible most of those 500,000 disenfranchised Californians don’t realize they might soon be eligible for free health care.
$300 million: The amount held in reserve by Covered California. The exchanges are now required to be fiscally independent from the federal government and stand on their own. Covered California director of financial management, Jim Lombardi, told his board the exchange is already on budget.
If something goes wrong, Covered California has a healthy emergency fund. You might call it an insurance policy.
5 Million: The amount the state’s population has increased in the five years since President Obama signed the ACA. California tugs on people like a magnet. The state’s population has exploded by 2,481 percent since 1900, and is expected to hit 50 million in the next 35 years. At that rate, making sure all future Californians have health care will continue to be a big challenge, but our record shows we’re up to it.
We helped cover more than half of California’s uninsured—four million people—in just five years. We need to finish the job. We also need to extend comprehensive health care to our undocumented neighbors, who get sick whether they have papers or not.
Here’s what you can do to help: Sign up for our campaigns to get the latest information. Join one of our initiatives, such as Get Covered/Asegúrate or Building Healthy Communities, to participate at a state and local level. And make sure everyone in your community is enrolled and fully informed.
The Affordable Care Act is working. Together, we can make sure it works for all Californians.