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Affordable Care Act is Creating an America "Built to Last": PHI CEO Mary Pittman Responds to the President's State of the Union Speech

January 25, 2012 | Mary Pittman, DrPH | Dialogue4Health

President Obama presented an inspiring vision for the future in his State of the Union speech: Our country will build a thriving and sustainable economy, give every American a fair shot at success, and use common sense regulations to protect citizens from the worst corporate abuses.

Despite the lack of direct attention to health in this speech, I was reminded of the great strides that have already been made to achieve this vision because of the Affordable Care Act. Because of the ACA, there is an unprecedented commitment to tackling a significant drain on our economy--skyrocketing healthcare costs--through Prevention.

Chronic disease accounts for 75% of all U.S. healthcare costs, reduces worker productivity and saps valuable resources from our economy and public sectors. As a result of the ACA, we have the first-ever National Prevention Strategy and Prevention and Public Health Fund. Communities across the country are receiving Community Transformation Grants to implement sound, evidence-based interventions to reduce tobacco use, improve nutrition and increase physical activity.

If we can create healthy communities and lower rates of chronic disease we will experience better health, increased productivity and lower healthcare costs.

Getting costs under control is one of the most important things we can do to strengthen our economy for the long-term. Everyone benefits from lower health care costs and enhanced access to care as well as to healthier communities. Because of the ACA, Americans are being prepared for the jobs of the future.

President Obama highlighted the need for innovative job training and to "turn our unemployment system into a re-employment system." Nowhere is this more applicable than in healthcare, where we are facing drastic workforce shortages. The ACA is supporting critical innovations and expansions in health workforce training, recruitment and retention.

Because of the ACA, millions more Americans have health insurance. No American has a "fair shot" at reaching their full potential if they can't get the healthcare they need when they are sick. The ACA's Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan has covered close to 45,000 Americans who couldn't otherwise get health insurance coverage because of their health status. Because of an ACA provision that allows kids to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26, 2.5 million young people have gotten coverage.

Because of the ACA, we will never, as President Obama said, "go back to the days when insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy." ACA regulations prohibit insurance companies from rescinding policies because members get sick. Starting in 2014 insurance companies participating in the Health Insurance Exchanges formed under the ACA won't be able to deny coverage to anyone.

Join PHI in 2012 as we continue to lift up ACA success stores, especially those related to Prevention.

How is your work to implement the ACA and advance quality, community-based Prevention helping to create an America "built to last?"

Mary Pittman, DrPH, is president and CEO of PHI.