For Vice President Joe Biden, the Affordable Care Act is about more than physical care when something happens — it's about the security of being covered in case something does.
"A big chunk of why I so strongly believe [health care] is a right and we've covered it now, is peace of mind," he said at a Families USA health conference Thursday. "This is Biden — I'm a lawyer, not a doctor — but I bet we'll find that stress plays an incredibly big role in health care."
In fact, we already have. Chronic stress has been linked to poor health. And a study this year found that Medicaid coverage increased use of health services, decreased rates of depression, and lowered financial strain.
Biden emphasized the importance of insurance to those with preexisting conditions who previously could not get coverage, and families who relied on the emergency room for care. Medical bills are the single greatest cause of bankruptcy, he said.
"To be able to say it with certainty — it's going to be OK — so many parents, so many families til now have not been able to turn and say it's going to be OK," Biden said. "Don't underestimate the peace of mind piece of this."
For now though, the enrollment numbers and the law's impact remain a bit murky.
A Gallup poll released Thursday shows that the rate of uninsured has dropped in the last month, from 17.3 percent in December to 16.1 percent so far in January. This is a positive sign, but it's too early to tell the degree to which it can be attributed to the health law, and the extent to which the decline will be sustained.
About 2.2 million have enrolled in private insurance on the exchanges as of the end of December. New figures out Wednesday show that 6.3 million people have been deemed eligible for Medicaid or CHIP by the states since Obamacare open enrollment began in October, though that figure also includes individuals who are renewing coverage or were previously eligible but not enrolled.
Being insured doesn't guarantee that patients will actually go to the doctor, but just having this coverage would significantly improve the lives of many, Biden said.
The vice president emphasized that the law is here to stay, despite continued opposition. "I'm confident [Republicans] are not going to get the message I'm about to deliver to them: We will not go back. America has turned the page. We will not go back to the days before the Affordable Care Act."