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By David W. Anderson

Four years ago, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Since then, through heated political debate, legal challenges, significant confusion, including many changes to the original timeline, there has been increased national conversation and concern around health care.

Another important ACA date happens within the week – Monday is the deadline for the “individual mandate,” which will require individuals who don’t have health insurance to enroll and secure coverage for 2014 or pay a tax penalty. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey conducted last month, only 24 percent of uninsured people were aware of (and clear about) this deadline.

At BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, we have been supporting our members, employers and the community to navigate the complexities of the law.

For a health plan that has provided coverage to our members for 78 years, it’s just another phase in implementing the ACA. While the first six months of having the option to purchase insurance via the New York State exchange is likely too early to know the real impact and benefit of this law, there are some early conclusions that can be drawn.

First, what we do know is that more than 25 percent of New Yorkers who were uninsured before the exchanges were launched now have coverage.

Next, we also know that the exchange has added competition, as reported by The Buffalo News. Consumers can now select among 16 health plans statewide, nine here in Western New York. I believe competition and choice is a good thing. It’s good for the health care industry, it’s good for health plans and, most importantly, it is good for the members of our community.

Finally, we know that small businesses have successfully secured a few more years before they must offer health care coverage for their employees. In Western New York, recent reports have indicated that unlike other regions or states, most employers here already offer health insurance to their employees. It’s good business and it helps our region’s competitive position to attract and retain talented (and healthy) employees. Working with our broker partners, we continue to work closely with employers to offer cost-effective health coverage that enhances the wellbeing of employees and their dependents, year in, year out.

It is important to remember the initial goal of the ACA was to ensure that every citizen would obtain health insurance, which in turn will provide access to affordable health care.

At BlueCross BlueShield, we believe that our members can feel secure, and continue to benefit from cost-effective health insurance products and choices that deliver on the promise of quality care for all.

David W. Anderson is president & CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of WNY.