As new year kicks off, Obamacare brings profound changes to U.S. health care

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As Obamacare ramped up on January 1, 2014, the United States underwent a profound change in its health care system, according to health policy expert John McDonough, professor of the practice of public health at Harvard School of Public Health.

McDonough spoke Jan. 6, 2014 on Dr. Timothy Johnson’s “Truth About Obamacare” podcast on WBUR’s CommonHealth. Johnson, MPH ’76, is retired medical editor for ABC News.

“I’m hard-pressed to think of another day of such important consequence” in U.S. health care, said McDonough, a regular panelist on the four-month-old podcast series. He listed four major changes that took effect at the beginning of the year: The health insurance industry is now no longer able to deny people insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions; 2.1 million people chose a private plan for health insurance coverage after a December enrollment surge; 3.9 million people are newly enrolled in Medicaid; and Americans are now required to have health insurance—under Obamacare’s “individual mandate”—or pay a tax penalty.