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As the Affordable Care Act turns 13, the law has never been stronger

Exactly 13 years after Joe Biden whispered to Barack Obama that the Affordable Care Act was a big bleeping deal, there’s little doubt that he was right.


President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Canada today, but as The Washington Post noted, before the Democrat heads to Air Force One, he has an anniversary to celebrate.

Today, before heading to Ottawa to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Biden will host an event celebrating the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, the signature domestic achievement of President Barack Obama. The event provides Biden a chance to warn that the now-popular program could be jeopardized by proposed Republican spending cuts.

After the Affordable Care Act became law 13 years ago today, there were plenty of points at which its future appeared to be in doubt. The website initially didn’t work. Polls suggested the law was unpopular. Legal challenges put the ACA in jeopardy — including three separate cases that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. After Donald Trump’s 2016 election, the fate of Obamacare appeared sealed.

All the while, Republicans made all kinds of predictions about the ACA’s imminent failure and disastrous consequences. The reform law would make the United States go “bankrupt,” they said. There’d be an outrageous “government takeover” that would destroy Americans’ way of life. There would be “death panels” and “death spirals” from which there would be no escape.

Obamacare, the GOP insisted, would create “armageddon.”

Thirteen years later, it’s now obvious that Republicans were wrong and the ACA’s proponents were right. In fact, thanks entirely to the reform law, the nation’s uninsured rate has never been lower.

Just as important is the fact that health insurance has never been more affordable than it is now: Democrats included generous new ACA subsidies in the party’s American Rescue Plan in 2021, with some consumers seeing their premiums fall to nearly or literally zero, thanks entirely to the investments in the Democrats’ relief package.

Those benefits were extended last year — though many congressional Republicans are eager to roll back the benefits and force premiums higher.

What the GOP is no longer trying to do, however, is “repeal and replace” the existing system, in part because Republicans failed spectacularly to come up with a credible plan of their own, and in part because the party came to realize they couldn’t get away with stripping tens of millions of American families of their health security.

Or put another way, after more than a decade of intense political, legal and legislative fights, the Affordable Care Act and its champions are getting the last laugh. Thirteen years after then-Vice President Joe Biden whispered to Obama that the reform measure was a big bleeping deal, there’s little doubt that he was right.

The ACA is working; it’s popular; it’s affordable; it’s advancing; it’s withstood far too many legal challenges; and it no longer has a Republican-imposed target on its back. Thirteen years ago today, this dynamic was hard to predict, but to the benefit of tens of millions of American families, it’s the truth.

This post revises our related earlier coverage.