October 1, 2013 was supposed to be the shining example of a modern government in action with the start of the ACA/Obamacare and healthcare.gov. Instead it was one of the worst launches ever for a government program including massive website failures and ongoing addresses by President Obamacare that acknowledged those problems.
However, a year later, the story of the new health initiative is quite different and there is hard data that confirms it’s working as planned, and in-deed will not quickly be undone by critics in the years ahead.
MSNBC provided an excellent, unbiased summary today on what the ACA/Obamacare has achieved in it’s first year. Here’s the highlights:
1. Millions of Americans are newly-insured
One of the principal goals of the Affordable Care Act, expanding the number of people with health insurance, has unquestionably been accomplished. A non-partisan health policy organization called the Commonwealth Fund estimated that 9.5 million people gained insurance over the last year. The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 10.3 million received insurance in the last 12 months and Gallup estimated that 5 percent of Americans were newly-insured. While much of this was from new enrollments, other provisions in the law contributed to the improvement such as allowing young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance until 26 and the expansion of Medicaid.
2. Lots of potential problems never became actual problems
Critics repeated their stories in the media ad nauseum despite limited supporting facts. This long list of “catastrophes” included that only older, sicker people would enroll; young adults wouldn’t because they were “invincible,” prices would skyrocket, the government was inaccurately reporting enrollment numbers, people wouldn’t pay for their plans, etc.
However, none of this came to be. The independent Commonwealth Fund study suggested the largest growth in people getting insurance were those between ages 18 and 34, who are disproportionately uninsured. The balance between younger and older people seems sufficient for health insurance companies, who have voted with their feet, as the U.S. government has estimated a 25 percent increase in the number of insurers offering ACA plans this fall compared to last year. And, according to US government data just 700,000 of the estimated 8 million (8.8%) were dropped due to non-payment resulting in nearly 90% as fully paying their premiums.
3. States that accepted Medicaid expansion significantly reduced their uninsured rate
The U.S. government estimates that Medicaid enrollment went up by about 440,000 in Kentucky and 227,000 in Arkansas over the last year because they expanded their Medicaid programs as provided by the ACA. On the other hand, for those state that didn’t expand, their Medicaid enrollment went down: about 30,000 in Alabama and Texas increased just 135,000, a state with almost four times the population of Arkansas and Kentucky combined.
Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the states that enrolled the highest percentage of their residents through the health care exchanges also had liberal governors: Vermont, California and Rhode Island.
4. Many challenges remain for the American health care system
Kaiser estimated that 28 million people were eligible to get subsidized health insurance last year, and 8 million purchased it. That means 20 million didn’t people didn’t enroll and the reasons could be because it’s too expensive, they’re unaware, or they’re simply unmotivated to do so.
“It’s not that they made a conscious decision to be insured,” said Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, a group does on-the-ground organizing to encourage people to get Obamacare plans. “We saw a really significant gap in knowledge. Even with all the work and all the coverage, for some reason some people didn’t get the information. That fundamentally means they are hard to reach.”
Open enrollment runs from November 15 – February 15 this year and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 13 million people will sign up for new insurance. However that target could be more difficult to reach as the open enrollment period has been reduced from 6 months to just 3 months.