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Obama administration touts health reform's benefits

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The Obama administration is using the fifth anniversary week of the signing of the health care law this week as a catalyst for the release of a slew of statistics to show how the law has met its central objective: reducing the number of Americans without health insurance.

In a five-year anniversary report, “Accomplishments of the Affordable Care Act,” released Monday, the administration said 16.4 million previously uninsured individuals have gained coverage due to the law.

Provisions in the president's signature health care law, which he signed March 23, 2010, chiefly responsible for that reduction in the number of uninsured include federal premium subsidies for lower-income individuals to use to purchase coverage in public insurance exchanges, and federal funding of an expansion of the Medicaid program to states that agreed to bump up the maximum amount of income individuals can earn and still be eligible for the program.

In addition, the law's provision making it illegal for plans to deny coverage for those with pre-existing medical conditions has resulted in 129 million Americans no longer “at risk of being denied coverage because of their health,” while “105 million Americans no longer have a lifetime cap on their coverage,” according to the report.

At the same time, a provision in the law that requires group health care plans to extend coverage to employees' adult children up to age 26 has increased the number of young adults ages 19 through 25 with health insurance coverage by 2.3 million, the report said.

The administration report also highlighted one of the few provisions of the law that directly benefited employers: the creation of a temporary federal program that paid out $5 billion to employers that continued their early retiree health care programs.

Under the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, employers and other sponsors of early retiree health care plans received federal payments to offset 80% of early retiree plan claims between $15,000 and $90,000 incurred after June 1, 2010. Reimbursement ended in early 2012 when the $5 billion fund was exhausted.

Those $5 billion in payments went to 2,900 employers and other sponsors, such as union funds, of early retiree health care plans.

The report said the reinsurance program was at least partly responsible for the percentage of employers offering the coverage between 2011 through 2014 remaining about the same, at 26%.