The GOP’s March Disaster: Obamacare worked, and people like it

Paul Krugman was wrong about one thing, the media is actually covering the success of the Affordable Care Act. Not on nearly the sale scale they gave attention to the exchange problems, but that’s status quo. Disasters are entertaining which make for ratings, successes are boring.

Today is the final day you can register on a health care exchange and the end of the first enrollment period.** Now is the time we can begin making serious judgments about the success of Democratic health care reform, although final judgement (which Republicans came to before the law even passed) won’t be appropriate for several years.

It took several years for Romneycare to get where it needed to be and Obamacare is very much the same program on a national scale.

That said, the verdict is good news for just about everyone except Republican politicians. Private enrollment will land somewhere near original projections, about 7 million people. That’s about a million more people than the CBO projected after making regular revisions and exactly in line with what they thought would happen back in 2010.

That’s also with almost every insurance exchange website malfunctioning for the first two months of the six month period enrollment period. If not for that, signups would have exceeded original expectations.

The facts are simple. The number of uninsured Americans has dropped from 18% to 15.9% in less than a year. Between 6.9 and 7 million people have signed up just on the public exchanges. 2.5 to 3.1 million young adults were able to join or remain on their parents’ insurance policies. 4.7 million poor and struggling individuals joined the Medicaid rolls only because of reform. (Had states with legislatures controlled by Republicans expanded Medicaid, that number could easily be double or even triple that figure.)

In total, as many as 16.8 million Americans gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act in its first six month period. In some states only 25% of those people were previously uninsured, in others it’s as high as 75%. States that embraced reform have seen significant numbers of people gain insurance they couldn’t previously afford. States that fought reform have seen very little progress and still have a tragic number of people who can’t afford insurance.

Anyone who has followed enrollment data gathered and published by Charles Gaba knew this was coming for some time now. Enrollment was very slow in October and November of last year, but once the exchanges started working, there was a surge in signups in December of 2013 and another surge this month to the point where more than a million people per day were visiting the federal exchange website. HealthCare.gov reported more than 1.2 million visits just today and that was by noon. Nevada’s call center is being flooded with last minute signups.

The big surprise may be a just-out poll from ABC News/The Washington Post showing a plurality of Americans now support Obamacare, 49-48. Alone, it’s an outlier outweighed by other polls and should be judged accordingly. It’s neither absolute proof that the ACA is now popular, nor should it be dismissed as meaningless. It’s value is somewhere in between and is just another point of information to consider along with many others.

The question from ABC/WaPo is different from what you’d expect, instead of asking if the respondent supports or opposes Obamacare, it asks if they support or oppose “the federal law making changes to the health care system”. We’ve seen before that merely asking about the “Affordable Care Act” instead of “Obamacare” can increase support, and this may be one of those bits of noise where what you ask changes the response.

That’s certainly possible. But it’s also possible that with nearly 7 million Americans getting insurance on the exchanges, with many of them seeing lower premiums thanks to subsidies, with nearly 17 million Americans directly benefiting, word is spreading that the ACA is helping a lot of people. Based on overall numbers, about 1-in-18 Americans has benefited from the ACA in some way which is bound to punch through partisan information filters eventually.

What’s sad to see is that politics is dampening the good news. More than just a few Republicans are denying evidence that the ACA worked just like they believed all polls from 2012 were skewed and biased.

I’m sorry to taint this newsy post with such, but I think that’s pathetic. The data is in and the data says that the Affordable Care Act wasn’t a disaster, and that it did exactly what it was supposed to do. If Republicans can’t deal with that reality then they should just get out of politics and find something else to do with their lives. Lying about good news that rubs their ideology the wrong way is unacceptable behavior from elected officials and the American people deserve better treatment than that.

If the GOP is going to be this partisan and this ugly about being wrong, it’s only fair then that Democrats have earned a few bragging rights. The ACA isn’t perfect and a lot more could have been done — should be done still.

But nobody should forget that health care reform was solely a Democratic priority. Republicans did everything they could to stop it from happening and have done everything they can to undermine it. Democrats have won every battle of that war, and the result is nearly 17 million Americans are in a better health care situation today because Democrats said this was important and it was the right thing to do, consequences to their political futures be damned.

Democrats were right, and there should be some small reward for that.

**Some states are extending the first enrollment period beyond March 31st.

Paul Tenny

Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.
Paul Tenny

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