Obama Publishes Article in JAMA — A Presidential First

In a first for a sitting president, Barack Obama, JD, published an article in the July 11, 2016 online issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. Obama’s article is one of healthcare policy assessment during his administration, most notably the Affordable Care Act.

The article, termed a “Special Communication,” United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps, lists its objectives as a review of factors influencing health care policy reform, summary of statistical evidence of ACA’s effects, recommendations for future health care policy changes and lessons learned about public policy from the ACA.

After enumerating the other steps his administration took in the early going of his presidency, Obama discussed the merits of ACA, particularly the fact that there were now fewer people without health insurance than before ACA, often referred to as “Obamacare,” began. Included in the literature are graphs and data to support Obama’s points.

So far, access to health care has improved as have hospital readmission rates for some diagnoses. Realistically it is yet too soon to say whether the actual health of individuals or populations have improved in the brief period of time the ACA has been implemented.

After enumerating the progress made via the ACA, Obama points out the need for more reform in the future, citing the difficulty many Americans still have in paying for health care, including monthly insurance premiums, deductibles, prescription drugs and more. In short, Obama enumerated the ways in which ACA has set the framework for present and future health care reform, serving as a building block for further changes and new ideas.

The article concludes with an eye to the future, with Obama suggesting the next person to occupy the Oval Office should work toward decreasing the price of prescription drugs, introduction of a public plan option in areas lacking in private heath insurer competition, increasing federal assistance toward health insurance premiums for individuals and families using ACA and continuing to work on and expand the framework of ACA.

In the same issue, JAMA has utilized Obama’s article as a topic for four of editorial pieces, including one of it own: The Affordable Care Act and the Future of US Health Care. The three other editorials were written by experts in health care policy who express their thoughts on Obama’s Special Communication and offer their particular insights into the ACA and future directions of health care policy and reform.

In closing, JAMA’s editorial states:

JAMA is pleased to publish this Special Communication from President Barack Obama, as he writes “The Affordable Care Act is the most important health care legislation enacted in the United States since the creation of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965.” We hope that the US presidential candidates will consider submitting to JAMA their ideas about further health care reform before the 2016 election, and we welcome any future president to submit to JAMA any article about major health care initiatives.”

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