Everything changed for healthcare in 2010 with the signing of the Affordable Care Act. While admittedly flawed and laden with complexities, the ACA eliminated some of the worst practices in the insurance industry.
These included policy refusals for those with pre-existing conditions, policy cancellations on technicalities when illness appeared imminent, annual and lifetime coverage caps and no support for young adults just starting out in their careers. But we cannot forget the biggest benefit—insuring 20 million people who could not previously afford coverage.
At St. Joseph Health, the impact was palpable. Our emergency rooms initially burst at the seams as people who had never enjoyed coverage sought immediate medical care. This intense demand came because so many had gone without care for so long. But we learned from this and began guiding many of these patients to primary-care physicians and toward more preventive health measures. It wasn't perfect and there were challenges, but we saw fewer individuals having to pay out of pocket, and it was clear many were being helped.
Our health system also responded by continuing to provide charity care. None of that stopped with the ACA—in fact, we actually accelerated and expanded our efforts. Guided by our founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, St. Joseph Health still supports many aspects of community need.
Throughout the era of the ACA, we have remained a national leader in community benefit, and in 2016, we came together with another faith-based system known for its charity care—Providence Health & Services. Together, as Providence St. Joseph Health, we are focusing on more opportunities to provide for our communities, especially the poor and vulnerable
However, as leaders in charity funding, we can unequivocally state that we cannot provide for all our communities' healthcare needs on our own. We cannot—and America cannot—go back again to life before everything changed in 2010. Yes, Obamacare isn't perfect, but it cannot be repealed without an adequate replacement plan.