The Affordable Care Act helps reduce hunger

July 8, 2015
Photo by Rick Reinhard for Bread for the World

By Christopher Ford

Health care has been a hot topic in the news again since the Supreme Court’s ruling last month to uphold a key part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It may not be obvious, but health care and hunger are similar issues. The government plays a huge role in both, and both are big public health issues. And sometimes these issues intersect.

The ACA, or Obamacare, is responsible for the largest expansion of health care coverage in 50 years. Since the law went into effect, the number of people without coverage fell by almost 17 million. Among African-Americans, there was a 9.2 percent drop in uninsured rates. Latinos saw a 12.3 percentage drop.

The provision of the law upheld by the Supreme Court provides tax subsidies to help poor and middle-class people buy health insurance. The court’s 6-to-3 ruling means that millions of Americans will continue to have access to affordable health care.

In the United States, one out of three people with chronic medical conditions must choose between treating these conditions or feeding themselves and their families. Many families receiving ACA subsidies live just above the poverty line and are not eligible for Medicaid. They struggle to pay their bills and are vulnerable to hunger.

The ACA subsidies enable these families to purchase the health insurance. This means they can treat their medical conditions and put food on the table. The ACA is becoming a vital link in the effort to end hunger in the United States. Families no longer have to forego dinner if a child needs to go to the doctor.

If the court had ruled the other way, millions of people would have lost their health coverage. And food insecurity would certainly have increased.

The Bread for the World Institute is currently working on the 2016 Hunger Report, which will be released in November. The report frames hunger as a serious health condition. Research shows that the lack of access to nutritious food, especially at a young age, can lead to chronic health problems. And bad health can be exacerbated by hunger.

Christopher Ford is the media relations manager at Bread for the World.

One year after ACA is repealed, 18 million would be uninsured. Graphic by Doug Puller / Bread for the World

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