Affordable Care Act’s past, future explored in Oct. 15 event

October 12, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

This year marks both the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and a pivotal moment for its future because of the national election and a pending Supreme Court case.

On Thursday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m., a panel of experts will discuss the law’s origins, impacts and potential future in a free online U-M event that is open to all.

The much-debated health care law was designed to improve access to health insurance and care for millions of uninsured Americans, and to address the persistent problem of rising health costs and the need to improve quality of care.

U-M researchers and others have spent years studying whether the ACA’s programs have lived up to these goals. They’ve studied the effects of expanded Medicaid through state-level programs for low-income residents such as the Healthy Michigan Plan. They’ve also studied programs aimed at improving hospital-based care, preventive care, and population health.

Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., director of the U-M Center for the History of Medicine and co-moderator of the event, noted, “As one of the most significant pieces of health care legislation since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, the ACA has changed health care for tens of millions of Americans. Now its future hangs in the balance in the coming months.”

His co-moderator, John Ayanian, M.D., M.P.P., director of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, added, “Our panel of national experts will discuss the journey of the ACA’s three goals to increase the number of the insured, improve the quality of care, and reduce the costs of health care. They will also discuss the intersection of the ACA’s programs and the COVID-19 crisis.”

The panelists for the event are:

  • Jonathan Cohn, senior national correspondent at the Huffington Post and author of a forthcoming book, The Ten Year War: Obamacare and the Unfinished Crusade for Universal Coverage.
  • John McDonough, Dr.P.H., M.P.A., a professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health who has written extensively on health reform and helped lead efforts to pass and implement the Massachusetts health care reform law in 2006 under Gov. Mitt Romney and the ACA working with Sen. Ted Kennedy.
  • Marianne Udow-Phillips, M.H.S.A., founding executive director of the Center for Health and Research Transformation, an independent U-M based nonprofit, and former director of the state of Michigan’s Department of Human Services.
  • Gail Wilensky, Ph.D., a health economist and senior fellow at Project Hope, an international health foundation that also publishes the journal Health Affairs. She served in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, including overseeing Medicare and Medicaid.

For more information and to register, visit

The U-M Institute for Health Policy and Innovation and the U-M Michigan Medical School Center for the History of Medicine are co-sponsoring the event.