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What the ACA Has Meant to Me: The Statistics

Part I of a three-part series.

Diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) at the age of 22, I’ve spent my adulthood figuring out ways to maintain health insurance. Even with insurance, some months I’m only able to pay the premiums, copays, and out-of-network expenses involved in my healthcare by pulling out my credit card. RA is a very expensive chronic condition without a cure. Unfortunately, it’s also a degenerative disease. This means if I forego medical treatment I will not only experience increases in pain, swelling, and fatigue, but also increase my risk of permanent damage to my joints as well as to my muscles, tendons, tissues, and organs (even my heart).

Unpleasant Choices

Choosing between spending thousands upon thousands in medical-related costs each year and being in so much pain that I can’t function is not the set of options anyone wants. That said, I’ve been incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to afford, one way or another, the care I need. That is because I’ve always had health insurance. Without it, my care would cost me thousands of dollars per month instead of per year; without health insurance, I simply wouldn’t be able to afford the care that enables me to have a decent life.

I am not alone in facing the high costs of an expensive disease. In the United States today approximately 1.5 million people have Rheumatoid Arthritis.1 There are at least 23.5 million Americans with one or more autoimmune conditions2 (some experts estimate an accurate figure is closer to 50 million3). When taking into account all chronic health conditions, approximately half of all adults in this country, or 117 million individuals, have one or more.4 I obviously have a lot of company when it comes to requiring ongoing medical care. However, unlike me, many have had to face their conditions without health insurance.

The Catch 22 of Coverage

Before the Affordable Care Act [ACA] was passed in 2010, approximately 17.8 million Americans with pre-existing conditions were uninsured.5 Indeed, in early 2010, just before the passage of the ACA, as many as 19% of applicants for health insurance were denied coverage based on health status. Put another way, nearly one in five people trying to get health insurance were told they were too ill to get the coverage they needed to treat their illnesses. Millions of people were caught in a healthcare catch-22 where they couldn’t get care because they were so in need of care.

With the ACA, which prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, there was a 23% decrease in the number of people with pre-existing conditions going without healthcare coverage. That translates into 3.6 million Americans with chronic health conditions gaining insurance coverage.

Tweaking the ACA

Although the ACA has provided insurance to 20 million Americans who were previously uninsured6, the law remains controversial. Premiums and out-of-pocket expenses have continued to go up for many people, (although increases greatly depending on whether one’s state of residence opted for Medicaid expansion7). While the law was named “The Affordable Care Act,” medical care for chronic conditions such as RA remains unaffordable for many.

Most people agree that the legislation needs tweaking. I am all in favor for any improvements that can bring down costs while continuing to provide coverage to the millions of people like me who have expensive chronic conditions. That said, the current form of the ACA has been personally beneficial for me, as I will outline in parts II and III of this series.

Have you been impacted by the Affordable Care Act? What changes would you like to see in a possible replacement for the law?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Accessed March 13, 2017.
  2. ePublications. Autoimmune diseases fact sheet. Accessed March 13, 2017.
  3. Autoimmune Statistics. AARDA. Accessed March 13, 2017.
  4. Chronic Disease Overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published February 23, 2016. Accessed March 13, 2017.
  5. Health Insurance Coverage for Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act. ASPE. Published January 5, 2017. Accessed March 13, 2017.
  6. Uberoi, Finegold, Gee. HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE AND THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT, 2010–2016. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed March 13, 2017.
  7. Archive-It. Archive-It - News Releases. Accessed March 13, 2017.


  • Tich
    2 years ago

    Great (and timely) topic Tamara. I took disability benefits through a private policy offered by my employer. But eventually my Cobra healthcare policy expired, and the insurance company pulled out of the individual market in Texas. ACA marketplace was my last resort and I would not have insurance without it. The company I selected has been outstanding for my medications and much needed surgeries. Maybe a survey would reveal how meaningful the ACA has been to your readers. I look forward to the next part. Thanks!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I am so glad that you found an insurance company that has provided good service and covered the treatments you need. I hope that whatever changes come our way, you will be able to continue receiving good care. RA is already hard enough to live with when we have good care! I appreciate your sharing as well as your suggestion. Thanks for being part of the community! Wishing you the very best, Tamara

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    2 years ago

    I also believe the ACA should be tweaked for improvements. Unfortunately, I fear the result of repeal when I do not trust the replace or even that will ever be a replace.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing, Lawrence! I do share your fear. It often feels like politicians are very far removed from the reality those of us living with chronic health conditions face when it comes to the incredibly high cost of treatment and of coverage. Thanks for being part of our community and sharing your thoughts! All the best, Tamara

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