ACA 411: Tracking Health Reform in California

Note: CHCF stopped maintaining the ACA 411 tool in January 2018. To access its data for 2013-2016, as well as a list of helpful resources and definitions, please visit our ACA data page.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” —Lewis Carroll

In the spirit of knowing where we are going, the California Health Care Foundation launched this week an interactive data tool to track the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in California. This is far from an academic exercise, because everyone involved with implementing the law expects twists and turns as it unfolds in the real world, along with the need to thoughtfully adjust as the ACA evolves.

The need for reliable public data is clear. We just have to look at the recent problems at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, where veterans had to wait too long to see doctors. Imagine how much more quickly the problem would have surfaced and been solved if the appointment data had been accurate and public.

In a similar way, here in California, generations of low-income residents and members of racial and ethnic minorities have felt the effects of limited access to medical care. When lawmakers passed the ACA, this was one of the many serious problems in our health care system that they were trying to fix. Now that California has persuaded millions of people to enroll in ACA health plans, we will need to see whether the promise of care turns into a reality. Our data tool, which we call ACA 411, aims to do just that, along with answering numerous other burning questions on whether coverage, affordability, and access to care are improving.

We launch this interactive tool with what we know today about these issues; periodically, when new data are available, we will update it. ACA 411 offers a wide range of indicators — including many broken down by demographics and regions. The data are presented through a smartly designed interface that will be easy to use and will grow more valuable over time. Users will find numbers on such meaningful topics as family spending on care, people who delay or forgo care, reasons for lack of insurance, local uncompensated hospital care, families with high health cost burdens, and dozens of others. Taken together, these numbers will reveal how California is faring under the biggest change in the American health care system since Medicare and Medicaid were created in the 1960s.

ACA 411 is a project in keeping with CHCF’s mission to bring data and dispassionate analysis to the intense and often contentious world of health care policy. By providing facts and data as they emerge, CHCF will inform the policy conversation about how best to improve health care for all Californians. A lot rides on the success of that discussion.