Sorry, but Obamacare is Working (but it could be better)

The current condition of the Affordable Care Act is almost night and day compared to where it was at the beginning of 2014. A website failure, pathetic enrollment numbers, and an overall sense of defeat was present. By the time the enrollment deadline hit, many were anticipating less than 7 million enrollees. Surprisingly, the final count was above 7 million. Immediately the concern shifted to whether or not individuals would actually pay their premiums. While there is a little debate, the overall consensus is that well over 80 percent of enrollees paid their first premium on time without any issue. Critics then began to decry the lack of quality of care, while continuing to beat the drum that millions became uninsured because of the law. Evidence is beginning to surface that both of those claims are false.

Gallup polling has attempted to gather data regarding what is happening to the uninsured population in the United States. The most recent poll says 13.4 percent of Americans are still uninsured, the lowest it has even been since they began polling in 2008. New figures from the White House and independent groups suggest that anywhere from 8-9.5 million individuals received coverage this year due to the federal health care law. These are just the individuals who previously had not been covered. It is true that some individuals saw their plans change, but many of them were immediately placed onto a new plan with minimal adjustments; usually in the form of more coverage. And while it is possible that thousands of individuals genuinely lost their coverage from the law, many of their plans could’ve been saved under the grandfather clause of the law, meaning the law didn’t guarantee the demise of their plan.

For the unfortunate few who actually lost their coverage, they will be happy to know that coverage from the exchanges is pretty well received. According to the Commonwealth Fund’s most recent survey, well over 70 percent of recipients were pleased with their healthcare. Specifically for people who had their previous plan cancelled, 77 percent are pleased with their new care. Over half of individuals on health plans from the exchanges said they could keep the doctors they wanted, and a much higher number the insurance they had was better coverage than what they had before. Yes, it does seem like things are looking up for Obamacare.
There are still some obstacles and some adjustments that need to be made. Skepticism remains high after the disastrous rollout of Healthcare.gov. President Obama hasn’t issued a formal apology for misleading individuals about keeping their healthcare plans, since it was truly impossible to guarantee that for every individual. The Commonwealth Survey indicated that many still found the website at least somewhat difficult to navigate. These changes are a bit more cosmetic and technical; the reassurance and apology of a president would go far with people, coupled with a strong push to improve the site even further now that it’s stable. I wouldn’t call these decisions easy, but they are directly the responsibilities of President Obama.

The greater issues are beyond his control. The employer mandate has gotten a lot of flak, and now President Obama is being sued over his actions regarding the mandate. Too many businesses are cutting hours in order to avoid the mandate. This unnecessarily throws more people onto the Medicaid plan, but creates a hole of individuals who would qualify for Medicaid but won’t receive it due to their state not expanding Medicaid. At the very least, the employer mandate should drop the hour minimum to provide coverage, removing the incentive of a business to cut hours. I feel like that will lead to some low wage workers being cut, so I would suggest abolishing the employer mandate all together. It would give workers more choice in their benefits by going through the exchanges, and would loosen up money from large corporations to raise their wages. Even if they didn’t raise wages, we would collect more money in taxes from these corporations, which would help offset the cost of potential subsidies to pay for the insurance of their employees. Or should I say Medicaid?

Currently, many of these employees at the larger corporations who are seeing their hours cut don’t make enough money to even be offered a subsidy. Instead, they are placed on Medicaid. However, there are still over 20 states that aren’t even considering expanding Medicaid. Some of these states have a gridlocked legislature, but many are states with Republican governors who absolutely refuse to expand Medicaid based on a faulty principle that the law is a failure. It’s impossible to declare the law a failure when you aren’t actually implementing the law though, leaving governors like Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and Rick Perry (R-TX) looking ignorant.

What really shows their ignorance is the fact that they continue to lambast Obamacare as being a waste of taxpayer money, but they are the ones wasting money. When those Medicaid dollars are collected by the federal government, they are used to fund the expansion in all of the states. But if a state refuses to take the money, it is just held by the federal government. At a recent fundraiser I attended, Governor Beebe (D-AR) pointed out that if Arkansas hadn’t expanded Medicaid, Arkansas tax dollars would have gone to fund other states’ Medicaid expansion, or just be held for no reason. At least with the expansion, Arkansans were receiving a benefit from their tax dollars. Governor Beebe even joked that he calls Governor Jindal to tell him that Arkansans are benefitting from Louisiana tax dollars.

The resistance to Medicaid expansion really is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and hurts millions of individuals who otherwise would gain coverage. Republican governors are playing politics, and in the end, the uninsured and taxpayers everywhere feel the pain. I’m sure you fall into at least one of those two categories. Obamacare has quite a few changes that need to be made, but all of the doomsayers should be disregarded at this point, as it is clear that Obamacare is working, even if some don’t want it to. Since it’s clear the law is working, it’s time to get past all of this silly talk of repealing and begin to work on the employer mandate, continue to improve the website, and place more pressure on states to stop wasting taxpayer dollars and help their uninsured residents by expanding Medicaid! Real leaders don’t just complain about the hand they were dealt, they deal with it. And increasingly, the hand looks better than we once believed.
Peter
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/11/upshot/newest-health-insurance-customers-are-generally-happy.html?_r=0
http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2014/jul/Health-Coverage-Access-ACA
http://www.commonwealthfund.org/acaTrackingSurvey/index.html
http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/obamacare-lowers-uninsured-108789.html?hp=l17

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