Fact (Not an Alternative One): Obamacare Is a Success
Donald Trump has often called the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010 and is more commonly known as Obamacare, a “disaster.” Sometimes even a “total disaster.”
During Barack Obama’s administration, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the ACA more than 50 times, but Obama, of course, never signed the repeal into law.
Since January, the Republicans have controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, but, despite promises to gut Obamacare on the first day of the Trump administration, the ACA is still the law of the land.
Why? Because, despite the vitriol against the law from some quarters, the truth is the ACA is yet another example of government making things better for Americans. Will the GOP actually go through with its threatened repeal of Obamacare when doing so would harm tens of millions of people?
Obamacare is not perfect. When the ACA has had its stumbles in the past, the media let us know about it with a megaphone. Obamacare had biggest and most visible failure with the launch of its HealthCare.gov website. The rough rollout, which, of course, was eventually fixed, inspired such over-the-top headlines as, “The Obamacare Website Failed for the Same Reason the Soviet Union Did.”
A recent rise in premiums, which still placed costs of insurance far below original Congressional Budget Office estimates, also garnered some breathless coverage. So did the fact that in July 2014, unfavorable public opinion toward the ACA peaked at 53 percent, with just 37 percent of the public holding a favorable opinion of the law, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll.
Despite these problems with the ACA, Obamacare has had far more successes than failures — and the public is beginning to understand this fact. For instance, the latest Kaiser tracking poll shows a remarkable shift in public opinion regarding the ACA. In January 2017, 48 percent of the public had a favorable opinion of Obamacare, while just 42 percent held a negative opinion. That’s a 22-point swing.
But that’s just public opinion of the law. Here are some of the positive outcomes, which are beyond debate, that Obamacare has driven:
- Since the ACA was passed seven years ago, about 20 million Americans have gained health insurance, according the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
- In 2014, the percentage of uninsured Americans had its biggest decline since 1987, dropping to 10.4 percent from 13.3 percent, according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- Obamacare has slowed runaway healthcare inflation. Healthcare insurance premiums increased 20 percent between 2011 and 2016, which is much lower than the two previous five-year periods: a 31 percent increase between 2006 and 2011, and a 63 percent spike between 2001 and 2006, according to Kaiser.
- Under Obamacare medical debt for those covered by the law’s Medicaid expansion has dropped between $600 to $1,000 per person, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Other benefits of Obamacare are somewhat harder to prove but no less real. In a recent New Yorker article, surgeon Atul Gawande makes the case that access to primary care physicians, which Obamacare and health care insurance provides, appear to result in “lower rates of general mortality, infant mortality, and mortality from specific conditions such as heart disease and stroke.”
The new law currently being pushed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, while it will reduce the deficit — because it will provide a deep tax cut for the wealthiest Americans — will result in 24 million losing their health insurance by 2026, according to the CBO. It’s clear that this law, the American Health Care Act, which has been dubbed “Trumpcare,” would add millions to the rolls of the uninsured — which is a frightening place to be in the United States, as Michael A. Cohen pointed out in the Boston Globe, because “an uninsured American is just one trip and fall, one car accident, or one bad medical diagnosis away from financial ruin.”
If Trumpcare becomes law, The Onion has cut to the heart of the matter with a typically harsh headline underscoring that millions more Americans will be one hospital stay away economic ruin: “GOP Recommends Americans Set Aside Income From One of Their Jobs to Pay for Healthcare Under New Bill.”