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10 Years Later, Obamacare Even More Essential During COVID-19 Outbreak

Around 84% of Democrats and only 16% of Republicans polled approve of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Adobe stock)
Around 84% of Democrats and only 16% of Republicans polled approve of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Adobe stock)
March 23, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Today is the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Affordable Care Act, and health care advocates say the federal health insurance exchange is more important than ever as we face the coronavirus outbreak.

Even as his administration continues to attack the law in courts, President Donald Trump is considering allowing open enrollment at healthcare.gov to tackle the current public health crisis. Giving more people health insurance is crucial to containing the virus, said Laverne Jackson, a nurse and member of Virginia Organizing.

"If you don't have health insurance and you have symptoms, people are going to try to self-treat," Jackson said. "And that's only going to make the virus worse, because then you're going to expose other people."

Since the ACA became law in 2010, 20 million Americans have gained health coverage. More than 400,000 Virginians are enrolled in Obamacare policies through the exchange, and more than 385,000 gained coverage through the Commonwealth's Medicaid expansion in 2019.

The ACA has helped about 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions gain protections when private insurance companies denied them coverage. Charlottesville resident Susan Perry said the insurance plan literally saved her life and her life savings. She said no insurance company would give her coverage when she had to leave her job and start chemotherapy for ovarian cancer in 2013.

"The infusions could run as much as $17,000 a month," Perry said. "And without the Affordable Care Act and having a cap on my insurance, basically over the years I would have had to declare bankruptcy."

Americans remain deeply divided over the Affordable Care Act. A 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation study found 51% of American adults polled viewed the federal insurance program favorably while 40% disapproved.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA