WASHINGTON — The Affordable Care Act is working and preparations are on track for the upcoming second open enrollment period, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told an audience at the Brookings Institution late last month.
A growing number of people have health insurance, middle class families are increasingly shielded from excessive medical bills and health care dollars are being spent more wisely, said Burwell in her first major address on the ACA since she took office in June, replacing Kathleen Sebelius.
"When you consider the law through the lens of affordability, access and quality, the evidence points to a clear conclusion: The Affordable Care Act is working — and families, businesses and taxpayers are better off as a result," Burwell said.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell tells an audience at the Brookings Institution that the Affordable Care Act is working for families, taxpayers and businesses.
Health insurance premiums increased by an average of 3 percent last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The group's annual Employer Health Benefits Survey also found that from 2009 to 2014, premiums rose on average a total of 26 percent, compared with 72 percent from 1999 to 2004.
Burwell cited these and other statistics — such as a significant decrease in hospital readmission rates — to demonstrate how the ACA is improving the overall health care system.
During the first open enrollment period that began last November and concluded in April of this year, some 7.3 million people obtained health insurance through the health insurance marketplaces established by the ACA. Another 8 million enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, according to HHS data.
The next open enrollment period begins in November, when 25 percent more health plans will be available in the state marketplaces than during the first open enrollment period, Burwell said.
"Many middle class families have more money in their budgets because their insurance company is now required to spend at least 80 percent of their premium on their care … Families have saved an average of $80 (per year) — money they can put into their electric bill or back into their grocery budget," Burwell said.
In the coming weeks, HHS will focus on "technology, management and prioritization" as it prepares for the next open enrollment period. According to a survey conducted by Enroll America, nearly 80 percent of uninsured people who did not sign up during the last open enrollment period said they plan to do so this time.
The HHS team is currently checking off items from last year's to-do list and ensuring that "back-end functionality" is working properly. The agency is allowing time for continued testing and problem resolution before the next open enrollment period begins.
Burwell closed her address by encouraging people to share the progress being made on coverage, access, quality and cost. With the ACA being a source of controversy, Burwell said, "I think we need a bit of a course correction in this country when it comes to how we talk about these issues — and it starts with collectively turning down the volume a bit."
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