The Affordable Care Act is working for America


Political humorist Mark Shields has said that a week can be a lifetime in politics and three months can be an eternity. How true for Obamacare and MNSure…

About two eternities (six months) ago, things were not looking good for the Affordable Care Act. The much decried audition of the website emboldened opponents of the Affordable Care Act to declare victory, asserting that the website’s failure had sealed the failure of the law altogether. The Obama Administration was caught in a swift and perhaps deserved maelstrom of criticism from pundits of all stripes. In late 2013, scorn and scrutiny of the ACA mounted as opponents of the law continued to prophesize its irredeemable collapse.

Reacting to the shaky roll-out, the Obama Administration promised anew to get the website fixed and see through the colossal task of health care reform. Changes were made. Deadlines were shifted. The website was saved. And even though Obamacare enrollments started steadily increasing, prospects for the law remained obscured by acrimony and politicization over cancellation letters folks were receiving. One eternity ago, Congressional Budget Office reports suggested the law might reduce overall employment by 2 million jobs or fail to meet its enrollment goals.

But now that the first open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act has closed, we have some measurable evidence to judge whether or not President Obama’s signature domestic achievement is actually achieving its stated goal of expanding affordable health care coverage to more Americans.

  • On April 1st, 2014 the White House announced that 7.1 million Americans have enrolled in private health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Despite the truly disastrous rollout, the Obama Administration met its first open enrollment goal. Reuters reports this number will increase. Perhaps more importantly, the Rand Corp. has released a study pegging the net number of Americans who gained coverage, through the indirect or direct impact of the ACA, at 9.3 million.
  • Gallup polling tells us that the uninsured rate in the U.S. has dropped to 15.6%, the lowest uninsured rate since 2008. Stories like Kentucky, where the uninsured rate has fallen a dramatic 40%, confirm that the ACA is reaching the uninsured in record numbers. The Gallup data also shows us that the uninsured rate is dropping faster in states that have embraced Medicaid expansion and a state exchange (like Kentucky), than those who have not.
  • The Congressional Budget Office has released new projections on the budgetary effects of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act and the new estimates suggest that Obamacare will cost $104 billion less than previously anticipated.

Good news for the Affordable Care Act is mounting more and more each day but it remains true that nothing worth doing is easy. Health care reform will continue to require tweaks and improvements. Minnesotans know this well after dealing with a glitch-ridden state exchange website for months. Even so, Minnesota’s health care exchange MNSure has enrolled over 200,000 Minnesotans, defying more modest expectations that were set last October. Health care reform is working.

Since April 1st, the White House has reported that enrollments have exceeded 8 million. Additionally, the White House also noted that 35% of the 8 million enrollees are under the age of 35, which is more good news for the ACA’s long term actuarial viability. In the President’s words: “…the bottom line is this: Under this law, the share of Americans with insurance is up and the growth of health care costs is down.”

The raw evidence suggests the President is right.