What Has Health Care Reform Changed?

On its second anniversary, an Obama official shares the law's achievements, setbacks and evolution.

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The second anniversary this Friday of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act comes at a tricky time. While the Obama administration has been busily stumping for the president's landmark health care reform law, looming just ahead, on Monday, is the start of a U.S. Supreme Court case that could potentially dismantle it.

The White House continues to extol how the law is already benefiting millions of Americans -- through new access to health insurance for children and adults with pre-existing conditions, for example, and bans on health insurance lifetime limits -- but that good news hasn't reached the same heights of attention as Republican presidential candidates' almost daily skewering of the tyranny of "Obamacare."  

But Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council, says that this is all par for the course when it comes to major reforms like the Affordable Care Act. In an interview with The Root, she explains why the Obama administration is paying little mind to the legal challenges and pundit-level criticism; the ways in which the law makes a difference for African Americans; and how, when it comes to fully implementing it, the administration is leaving room for improvement.

The Root: The Republican presidential candidates have all said that one of the first things they would do if elected is repeal the Affordable Care Act. What would be the immediate impact if the law were repealed?

Cecilia Munoz: We'd no longer have a law protecting people from discrimination because they have a pre-existing condition, or from being thrown off their health care insurance because they get sick. We know that 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage on their parents' plan because of the Affordable Care Act -- and that includes 410,000 African Americans within that number.

We know that 5.5 million African Americans are eligible for preventive care without co-pays and co-insurance now as a result of the Affordable Care Act. We know that about 10.4 million African Americans are now free of having to worry about lifetime limits on coverage, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

We're talking about turning back the clock on all of that if this law were to get repealed. These are tangible changes that are affecting real people.

TR: Still, on Monday the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in a lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality. Why does the administration feel confident about the legal soundness of the individual mandate in the face of this looming challenge?

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CM: The Supreme Court is going to hear six hours of argument, and there hasn't been that lengthy an argument in the Supreme Court in many years. It recognizes that this is a historic, important moment. At the end of the day, we are confident that the Supreme Court is going to uphold the law. That will give us the opportunity to build on the strong record that we've already built over two years of implementing this law, and get to the point where everybody has access to insurance coverage that's affordable.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM