Even though it had a hideous roll-out and became — and is — a bigtime political football, the Los Angeles Times reports that Obamacare has brought insurance to 9.5 Americans who hadn’t had any and has already set a record for the history books:
President Obama’s healthcare law, despite a rocky rollout and determined opposition from critics, already has spurred the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century, national surveys and enrollment data show.
As the law’s initial enrollment period closes, at least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gained coverage. Some have done so through marketplaces created by the law, some through other private insurance and others through Medicaid, which has expanded under the law in about half the states.
The LAT’s got its figures “from a review of state and federal enrollment reports, surveys and interviews with insurance executives and government officials nationwide.” It notes the ACA still faces “major challenges,” such as premium hikes that could chase off those who’ve just signed up.
But the increased coverage so far amounts to substantial progress toward one of the law’s principal goals and is the most significant expansion since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
The millions of newly insured also create a politically important constituency that may complicate any future Republican repeal efforts.
Here are some of their stats:
• At least 6 million people have signed up for health coverage on the new marketplaces, about one-third of whom were previously uninsured.
• A February survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found 27% of new enrollees were previously uninsured, but newer survey data from the nonprofit Rand Corp. and reports from marketplace officials in several states suggest that share increased in March.
• At least 4.5 million previously uninsured adults have signed up for state Medicaid programs, according to Rand’s unpublished survey data, which were shared with The Times. That tracks with estimates from Avalere Health, a consulting firm that is closely following the law’s implementation.
• An additional 3 million young adults have gained coverage in recent years through a provision of the law that enables dependent children to remain on their parents’ health plans until they turn 26, according to national health insurance surveys from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
• About 9 million people have bought health plans directly from insurers, instead of using the marketplaces, Rand found. The vast majority of these people were previously insured.
• Fewer than a million people who had health plans in 2013 are now uninsured because their plans were canceled for not meeting new standards set by the law, the Rand survey indicate.
But this is the political season (and its just revving up, folks). So GOPers will paint the program as failed (facts don’t matter in politics anymore) and all warts, and many Democrats will try to minimize the warts (facts don’t matter in politics anymore) and talk about the positives.
But from the LAT piece — which used stats (I can just predict websites that will say it’s just the mean ‘ol liberal media making numbers up) — strongly suggests the positives far outweigh the warts and that historians will be noting that in coming years.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.