On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law.

And while the term started out as an insult, even the president seems to have gotten used to ACA being called “Obamacare,” and it’s a central part of his legacy. And a worthy legacy it is, helping millions of Americans who have struggled to pay for healthcare.

Today, about one fifth of California’s population is uninsured, including 18 percent of African Americans–markedly higher than the White rate of 14 percent. The Black uninsured rate is expected to drop significantly thanks to the ACA, moreso than for most other groups.

This matters. California Blacks have the highest infant mortality rate of any group, more than double that of Whites and Latinos, and a death rate from diabetes that’s more than double that of Whites.

Access to affordable health coverage won’t solve all of these problems, but it will help a lot.

Indeed, it’s already started helping real people, including the mother of Adrian, the health fellow on our health policy team here at the Greenlining Institute. She suffers from lupus, a disease in which the immune system goes haywire and attacks healthy tissues. Her diagnosis brought her into the world of “pre-existing conditions”–so obtaining coverage that adequately covered her medical expenses at a price the family could afford became nearly impossible.

The ongoing medical costs put a huge burden on Adrian’s family, eventually causing them to lose their home. But thanks to healthcare reform, that’s about to change.

The ACA is doing two things that will help Adrian’s mom: It’s ending exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and it’s expanding Medi-Cal, making it possible for her to enroll. As of January, she’ll experience the security of having health coverage and knowing that her illness won’t bankrupt the family.

For those who make a little more than Adrian’s mom, as well as small businesses that want to provide insurance for their employees but haven’t been able to afford it, new options will open up as well, including help designed to make insurance more affordable.

The law creates state-level health insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, which will be a little like Amazon.com for health insurance. Individuals, families and small businesses will be able to shop and compare insurance plans and purchase them through the exchanges.

California’s exchange, Covered California, has already launched its website. Greenlining has been working closely with Covered California to ensure that all communities have access to the new options that will be available.

Most importantly, individuals and families with incomes up to four times the federal poverty level will be eligible for subsidies to help pay for coverage. An estimated 790,000 Californians will get such help.

And small businesses can receive tax credits to help cover their employees. In order to help business owners navigate this process, The Greenlining Institute has created a small business primer that explains what is available and how it works.

People can begin purchasing insurance through Covered California on Oct. 1, with the policies taking effect Jan. 1, 2014. We urge everyone to start learning about the huge expansion of health coverage that’s about to take place, and what it means for you.

In addition to the Covered California site, information about the law’s effect nationally is available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This is all tremendous news, but there is still work to be done. For example, although the Medi-Cal expansion has the potential to help millions of Californians, how we implement this expansion is still being worked out in Sacramento.

Greenlining is urging Gov. Jerry Brown to do what is equitable for all Californians by having the state continue to oversee Medi-Cal and continuing to allocate resources for our counties to ensure a robust safety net.

We are getting closer to the day when healthcare is truly a right, not a privilege. We need to keep pushing to get all the way there.

Carla Saporta is health policy director at The Greenlining Institute, www.greenlining.org.

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