Thirteen months after its disastrous roll-out, the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) – surprise, surprise – is working.
How do we know it’s working? Well, for one thing, it’s not starring as the evil bogeyman in saturation ads this election season. If it were not working, you can bet your last sweet buck opponents would be shouting it from the rooftops – in political attack ads. Less than six months ago, ObamaCare was supposed to be the Great Big Dud that would sweep Republicans to landslide victories come this November.
Obama-haters, especially the shills on the Fox News Channel, gleefully gloated about how ObamaCare was in its “death spiral.” Vultures gathered, hovering, ready to swoop down and pick clean the carcass.
Most pundits are still banking on Republicans taking a majority in the U.S. Senate, but their wins – at least according to current polls – are likely to be squeaky-tight margins, not landslides. ObamaCare was not the catastrophe so many right-wing politicians insisted it would be.
How else do we know the ACA is working? Take your pick from the following:
• The best reason is there are about 10 million Americans who now have health insurance for the first time in their lives. More will join when the next sign-up period starts Nov. 15. People can shop for less-expensive premiums, which should force companies to become more truly competitive with – adjustments over time – lower medical costs and lower premiums.
• The number of insurers participating through the marketplace exchanges is increasing, overall.
• Obstructionist states, fiercely resistant to anything to do with ObamaCare, are realizing they were fools not to accept federal Medicaid expansion funding. They are beginning to understand other states that allowed the Medicaid expansion and created their own market exchanges in tandem with the ACA, have shown the largest decreases in their rates of uninsured people. Minnesota’s rate declined by 40 percent – an all-time record. Kentucky and Arkansas are also notable success stories, as are California, Colorado, Oregon and New Mexico.
• The nationwide uninsured rate is now 13.4 percent, the lowest since 2008, according to a Gallup survey. That’s because of 10 million more people covered by private health insurance, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
• Yes, in the year since its inception, some insurance premiums will increase in 2015, but others have gone up by only a percentage point or two, or have actually declined – quite a switch from the constant double-digit increases in the years before the ACA. Yes, PreferredOne dropped out of the Minnesota market exchange recently, but thanks to the forces of marketplace competition initiated by the ACA, it will return, or others will gladly take its place.
• Government subsidies, especially in the case of some premium increases, will help the “working poor” pay their premiums.
• People cannot be denied insurance due to pre-existing conditions.
• Women cannot be discriminated against with higher costs because they are women.
• Children can stay on their parents’ health insurance until they are 26.
• ObamaCare introduced strict guidelines against junk insurance policies that may cost less but offer almost nothing of value.
• The ACA encourages preventive care, nipping problems in the bud, before they become acute and vastly more expensive.
• Reforms initiated by the ACA have helped lower the federal deficit and have even driven down the long-term costs of Medicare, according to a Washington Post analysis of a report by the non-partisan U.S. Congressional Budget Office last August.
Who can argue with those successes?
To be sure, there have been, there are and there will be ongoing problems with ObamaCare. Premium subsidies could escalate too rapidly, some exchanges still need tweaking for efficiency and for security assurances, some people might stop paying their premiums and drop out. There have always been problems with any major changes in society, including the Social Security and Medicare programs when they were started, and such programs will always require ongoing, never-ending adjustments. As will the ACA. Cynics, however, insist on throwing out baby with bathwater.
Those who dislike ObamaCare probably will never change their minds; they’ll keep carping about it, trying to nitpick it to death. Those of us who like it, who welcome it as long overdue, are betting it’s not only here to stay, in one good form or another, but it’s already begun to transform America into a kinder, gentler, healthier nation.
President Obama deserves a thank you and an apology.