Health Care in America

“I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.”

Healthcare Speech Intro

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The aim was simple: That every American could share in the promise of quality health care.

The groundwork was laid over nearly 100 years: Other administrations — from Presidents Truman to Nixon to Clinton — have tried and failed to immortalize this principal into American law.
Then, after nearly a century of work, an improbable piece of legislation with a lot of heart behind it ended its journey on the President's desk on March 23, 2010.
Since then, health reform in America has been the law of the land and after more than five years under this law 16.4 million Americans have gained health coverage. 129 million people who could have otherwise been denied or faced discrimination now have access to coverage. Health care prices have risen at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years. And it will live on as a legacy achievement not just of this administration, but of all those who fought for it for so many years.

Healthcare Timeline

Aug. 6
President Theodore Roosevelt campaigns on national insurance.
President Theodore Roosevelt campaigns on national insurance.
Nov. 11
“There is also the problem of economic loss due to sickness—a very serious matter for many families with and without incomes, and therefore, an unfair burden upon the medical profession”
Franklin D Roosevelt
Rep. John Dingell Sr. first introduces a bill for comprehensive health reform.
Nov. 19
“Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. The time has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and that protection.”
President Truman
Jan. 31
“Many of our fellow Americans cannot afford to pay the costs of medical care when it is needed, and they are not protected by adequate health insurance. Too frequently the local hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes required for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease either do not exist or are badly out of date.”
Feb. 9
“The health of our nation is a key to its future--to its economic vitality, to the morale and efficiency of its citizens, to our success in achieving our own goals and demonstrating to others the benefits of a free society. Ill health and its harsh consequences are not confined to any state or region, to any race, age, or sex or to any occupation or economic level. This is a matter of national concern.”
Jan. 7
“We can and we must strive now to assure the availability of and accessibility to the best health care for all Americans, regardless of age or geography or economic status.”
July 30
President Johnson signs legislation creating the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Lyndon Johnson signing Medicare bill, with Harry Truman, July 30, 1965
Senator Ted Kennedy introduces the Health Security Act, calling for a national single-payer health care plan.
Mar. 2
“Comprehensive health insurance is an idea whose time has come in America. There has long been a need to assure every American financial access to high quality health care. As medical costs go up, that need grows more pressing. Now, for the first time, we have not just the need but the will to get this job done.”
Richard M. Nixon posing with his cabinet in the cabinet room in the White House.
Dec. 9
“As long as I'm a vote and as long as I have a voice in the U.S. senate, it's going to be for the Democratic platform plan that provides decent quality health care north and south, east and west, for all Americans as a matter of right and not of privilege.”
Senator Edward Kennedy with President Barack Obama 4-21-09
Jan. 28
“We simply cannot afford this. The cost of health care shows up not only in your family budget, but in the price of everything we buy and everything we sell. When health coverage for a fellow on the assembly line costs thousands of dollars, the cost goes into the product he makes. And you pay the bill.”
Sept. 22
“At long last, after decades of false starts, we must make this our most urgent priority, giving every American health security, health care that can never be taken away, health care that is always there.”
July 15
“When the American people are on the march there is no barrier that can resist them, no obstacle that can block their path.”

President Barack Obama listens as Sen. Ted Kennedy addresses a Health Care Summit second session with members of Congress in the East Room of the White House March 5, 2009.
Sept. 9
“I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way.”

Read The President's Speech
resident Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., September 9, 2009
Jan. 27
“After nearly a century of trying… we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans. The approach we've taken would protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry. It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market. It would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care.”
Mar. 21
Congress passes its sweeping health reform bill and sends the legislation to the President for his signature.
Mar. 23
“We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care. And it is an extraordinary achievement that has happened because of all of you and all the advocates all across the country.”
Obama signs health care bill in the White House
June 10
Seniors see the first benefit of the Affordable Care Act as $250 rebate checks are sent.
Watch the Video
July 1
Uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions now have access to coverage through the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP).
Watch the Video
Jan. 1
Medicare starts covering annual wellness visits and offering free preventive services.
Watch the Video
Dec. 14
Millions more Americans under 26 have gotten coverage through a parent’s plan since health reform went into effect.
Watch the Video
June 8
The Supreme Court upholds President Obama's health care reform.
Read About the Court's Decision
Aug. 1
Additional preventive care services for women are covered with no cost-sharing for new health plans.
Watch the Video
June 20
Consumers saved $5 billion thanks to the medical loss ratio rebate program created by the Affordable Care Act.
Oct. 1
The Health Insurance Marketplace opens for business for the first time.
Visit the Marketplace
President Obama goes “Between Two Ferns” to discuss the importance of getting covered.
Watch the Video
Mar. 31
The first open enrollment period closes, with millions of Americans having signed up for private insurance through the Marketplace and millions more newly covered through Medicaid.
Read the News
July 28
Independent Medicare Trustees confirm: the life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended to 2030 – 13 years longer than when the Affordable Care Act was passed. At the same time, Medicare Part B premiums remained flat for two years in a row – allowing seniors to keep more of their Social Security checks.
Read the News
Dec. 3
New data confirms that health care spending growth continues at record low rates, in part thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
Read the Report
Feb. 15
The second open enrollment period closes with the largest day of new enrollments yet and more than 10 million Americans enrolled in the Marketplaces.
See the Numbers
June 25
The Supreme Court issues a 6-3 decision on King v. Burwell, upholding a key part of the Affordable Care Act.
Read the News
16.4 million people have gained health insurance and the uninsured rate stands at the lowest level on record.

Five Years of the Affordable Care Act
America's uninsurance rate has gone down by about one-third since October 2013, the largest decline in decades

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Test Yourself:
How Much Do You Know About Health Reform?

Most people don’t realize exactly what health reform has meant for millions of Americans. Test yourself here.
Health Care in America - Who Said It Quiz Image

Who said it? A century of attempts to reform our health care system

For nearly 100 years, American Presidents from both political parties tried to reform our health care system. On March 23, 2010, President Obama finally did by signing the Affordable Care Act into law, which has helped millions of Americans gain access to quality, affordable health coverage. Take this quiz to test your knowledge about what past Presidents have said about the need to fix our health care system. You might be surprised by some of the answers.

Take the Quiz

Love charts? See if you can guess what these ones are showing

We’ve pulled together a batch of charts and images, and removed the titles and labels. See if you can guess the story each of them tells – then challenge your chart-loving friends to take it, too. We guarantee you’ll learn something that surprises you.

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A Letter to the President from Senator Ted Kennedy

Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, known fondly as the "Lion of the U.S. Senate," was a lifelong champion for health reform. He called it the cause of his life. As he endured brain cancer, he wrote this letter to the President, instructing his wife to send it after he passed away. This is what that letter said:

Excerpt from a letter from Edward Kennedy to President Obama: When I thought of all of the years, all of the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never fully defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me — and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination. There will be struggles — there always have been — and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat — that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country. And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family's health will never again depend on the amount of a family's wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will — yes, we will — fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

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After Health Reform: Your Day-to-Day Life

Health reform has had a profound day-to-day impact on tens of millions of Americans – no matter where they are in their lives.

For millions of Americans, health reform has meant finally having access to the preventive services that will keep them — and their families — healthy for good. In the day-to-day, that means getting regular check ups and screenings. In the long run, it means safeguarding against chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. (Learn about other preventive services here.)

That's a big deal.

There's something you can do right now to help promote a better, smarter, and healthier health care system — and help make some of the unsung benefits of health insurance clear. Post a #HealthySelfie on your social media channels, showing yourself working out, eating healthfully, or heading to the doctor's office for a check-up. Anything that might move your friends and followers to follow your lead.

Learn more about our Healthy Self campaign (and check out Secretary Burwell's #HealthySelfie), and follow along here to find some ways you can take advantage of preventive care to be your healthiest self.
For an easy way to get personalized preventive health recommendations for yourself or a loved one, check out the U.S. Health and Human Services' myhealthfinder!



Young Americans getting their own insurance for the first time.
When Sarah turned 26, she was no longer covered under her family’s health insurance plan. The Medi-Cal coverage she was able to sign up for ended up saving her life.


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Americans thinking about starting a family.
Loren, a self-employed woman from Kihei, Hawaii, now has the highest level of coverage for less than $250 a month. “I could actually have a kid without financial ruin now,” she wrote the President.


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Americans striking out on their own to start a business.
Now that health insurance companies are required to cover pre-existing conditions, Deborah was able to secure her own health plan and start a business from the comfort of her home.


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Americans moving toward retirement.
Health reform came just in time for Katherine – self-employed for 32 years — and her family. Today, her family can afford to keep their business and their home.


Read more



Read more of the stories of Americans whose lives health reform has improved below.



Meet The Covered Photos

Don K.
Phoenix, AZ
Deborah K.
Los Angeles, CA
Derrick B.
San Francisco, CA
Jeff R.
Riverside, CA
Jenna R.
Sacramento, CA
Kathy M.
Kings Beach, CA
Marjorie F.
Glendale, CA
Jackie B.
Denver, CO
Marla M.
Fort Collins, CO
Ann C.
Westport, CT
Donald L.
Palm Coast, FL
Amy W.
Augusta, GA
Naomi R.
Roberta, GA
Cait I.
Council Bluffs, IA
Susan T.
Quincy, IL
Arthur M.
Mishawaka, IN
Cody F.
Carmel, IN
April W.
West Paducha, KY
Keith C.
Louisville, KY
Lynnette J.
Hyattsville, MD
Jason T.
Holland, MI
Tyrona R.
Saint Clair, MO
Shannon K.
Great Falls, MT
Astrid M.
Charlotte, NC
Darlene W.
Cary, NC
Anthony C.
Yorktown Heights, NY
Katherine R.
Portland, OR
David H.
Elkins Park, PA
Regina M.
Philadelphia, PA
Durrain K.
Round Rock, TX
Lori S.
Beaumont, TX
Peter M.
Austin, TX
Ryan P.
Austin, TX
Don E.
Fairfax, VA
Karen M.
Burien, WA
Mavis C.
Gilbert, WV
Tricia T.

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Health Care in Your State: Get the numbers.

Download your state’s fact sheet to see its unique health care story: how reform has improved access to coverage, lowered costs, and improved quality.