How the tables have turned. Just about this time last year, Republicans were salivating at the prospect of huge midterm gains because of problems with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It was the number one election issue for the 2014 midterms: the HealthCare.gov website was on the fritz, not enough young people were signing up and stories were circulating about people across the country “losing their plans.” Now, however, we face a much different reality.
In light of a New York Times article published last week, “Is the Affordable Care Act Working?” many are only now beginning to notice the tremendous progress the ACA has made in just one year.
The number of uninsured Americans has declined about 25 percent and the only factor hindering the acceleration of that figure is the sad reality that 23 red states still refuse to adopt Medicaid expansion because of, well, partisan politics.
Premiums have not risen sharply as the law’s opponents initially predicted. Critics are attributing the low premiums to the competition it has fostered as new companies continue to enter the market.
The healthcare industry has greatly benefited from the law. It provides new customers to health insurance companies and more paying patients to doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. One measure, the S&P 500 Health Care Index, has climbed 24 percent in a year. Slowing health-care spending as a percentage of GDP also can be attributed to the law’s elimination of unnecessary care that cost money; reduced patient remittance to hospitals shows that.
Sure, the health-reform law still has its flaws and kinks to be worked out. But what huge new program doesn’t? Besides, a glitchy website is no reason at all to write off the success of one of the biggest policy accomplishments in our nation’s history.
The days of laughable repeal attempts by congressional Republicans and misleading, sometimes fraudulent “Obamacare horror stories” from Fox News and other right-wing media outlets seem to have ended.
That is not the best of the news; the law’s success is only expected to continue. During the second enrollment period, starting November 15, an additional five million Americans are expected to sign up. More states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Utah and Indiana are in talks to put partisanship aside and accept federally funded Medicaid expansion.
The upshot? The enormous healthcare sector should experience continued growth, at least within the next year. (Indeed, most analysts say now is still a good time to invest in health-related stocks.)
However, as Republicans have seemingly conceded this loss, Democrats have failed to capitalize on the law’s success. At the outset, Democrats were on the defensive, finding themselves on national television in situations having to explain that “the law isn’t perfect, but…” Some even said it should be changed or even repealed as they feared they wouldn’t be reelected.
Those Democrats now find themselves in tricky circumstances, since they do not necessarily want to contradict their earlier statements. As a result, they cannot really take much credit for a law they initially supported in Congress. Such is the reality that the Affordable Care Act’s success is not helping Democrats win elections as it should. The ACA is not unique in that regard. Programs that benefit Americans every day, such as Social Security and Medicare, have shown to produce little positive political consideration for the Democrats, their parents.
Lives, though, are more important than elections. Healthcare reform is here to stay–at least until another system emerges, say, with a single payer element. America is now a better place, thanks to the evolution of the Affordable Care Act.