Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Obamacare is working. Period.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Certainly there are a number of different ways to measure Obamacare's success (or failure, according to Republicans, for whom no empirical evidence will ever convince them otherwise), including health care cost control, a key to America's future fiscal health, but the most important one, to me, is access to affordable health insurance for millions upon millions of uninsured Americans (together with more affordable health insurance for some who already had it).

And in that regard, Obamacare is already proving to be an enormous success, according to Gallup:

The uninsured rate has been falling since the fourth quarter of 2013, after hitting an all-time high of 18.0% in the third quarter -- a sign that the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as "Obamacare," appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage. Even within this year's first quarter, the uninsured rate fell consistently, from 16.2% in January to 15.6% in February to 15.0% in March. And within March, the rate dropped more than a point, from 15.5% in the first half of the month to 14.5% in the second half -- indicating that enrollment through the healthcare exchanges increased as the March 31 deadline approached.

And that's just the start. The fact is, for all the outreach efforts (and after all the early online glitches), a lot of Americans didn't know about the March 31 deadline, or what it meant, and so didn't sign up, despite the individual mandate. But while open enrollment is currently closed, it will start up again, for 2015, in November, and so one can expect the number of uninsured Americans to drop further, likely much further, as Obamacare becomes more widely understood and more deeply embedded as a core component of America's overall health care system. In other words, this wasn't just a one-time thing. Millions of people signing up will generate awareness and interest, leading to more and more people signing up.

It's still early, and this initial success will beget more success. (Republicans know this, which is why they've been fighting so hard to stop Obamacare before it could catch on.) And as costs go down, as the number of uninsured goes down, as affordable health insurance becomes more and more widely available, and as this new system becomes more and more a part of people's lives, easy to sign up for and a significant improvement over what they had before, if anything, there will be no denying the clear and overwhelming evidence that Obamacare is working brilliantly. (Except to Republicans, of course, for whom ideology trumps reality.)

And that Americans are so much better off because of it.

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