Biden: Obamacare Brings Peace of Mind

The vice president says just having coverage will improve individuals’ mental health.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden pauses as he addresses the opening plenary session of Families USA's Health Action 2014 conference January 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. The conference brought together health care advocates to focus on 'topics from Medicaid expansion and efforts to promote high-quality care to strategies for improving health care access for minorities.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
Jan. 23, 2014, 8:06 a.m.

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.”

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