Of George W. Bush’s myriad of failures that continue to wreck havoc at home and abroad, 7.9 million Americans losing their health insurance rarely gets mentioned.
“When [former president Bill] Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million,” Ron Brownstein wrote in 2009. “By the time [former president George W.] Bush left office that number had grown to just over 46.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million or 20.6 percent.”
And as Bush left office, the percentage of those without insurance continued to grow as millions continued to lose their jobs in the recession President Obama inherited. But in 2011 the percentage of uninsured began to shrink slightly as the Affordable Care Act went into effect. That shrinkage leveled out over the next two years but 2014 will likely offer the biggest reduction in the uninsured population at least in decades.
The Incidental Economist‘s Aaron Carroll — who hosts a great YouTube series called Healthcare Triage — looked at a new survey from Gallup and found that it suggests “about 10-11 million Americans are newly insured this year. Almost 9 million of them received private insurance through the exchanges.”
This means far more Americans have gained health insurance in the first six months of this year than lost it under George W. Bush. It also means that every prediction Republicans have made about this law has been wrong.
The Los Angeles Times‘ Michael Hiltzik sums up the good news like this:
–Nearly 60% of enrollees in ACA-compliant exchange health plans this year were previously uninsured–most of them for two years or more. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation.)
–Obamacare cut costs for buyers eligible for subsidies by an average of 76% compared with non-subsidized premiums. More than 80% of buyers are eligible for government subsidies, and for them the average premium is $82 a month. (Source: Department of Health and Human Services.)
–Most people can save money by choosing plans offering narrower provider networks, and there’s “no meaningful” difference in health outcomes between plans with narrow hospital networks and those offering broader networks. (Source: McKinsey & Co.)
–Projected rate increases for 2015 are coming in well below expectations. Anthem Blue Cross rates will rise by less than 10% next year, about in line with health plan rate increases in the individual market in the pre-ACA era. (Source: Anthem Blue Cross.)
New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait has his own list and our Charles Gaba adds to it by pointing out that the whining about “How many have paid?” has gone away now that it looks like about 90 percent of those who signed up are paying
Health care is now much cheaper or free for millions of Americans who earn under four times the poverty level. And this is paid for by taxing the somewhat rich, the rich and the super rich.
The success of the law has forced the right to begin to acknowledge the real reason they hate the law, according to Chait: It helps less fortunate people with other people’s money.
This raises a moral question that has nothing to do with statistics.
Now we can move the debate about the law to a place where it is winnable for Democrats. By futzing over stats and marketplace data, Republicans get to debate health care as a product.
Now that it’s proven to be a very efficient product, as Charles Gaba points out, it’s time to have the real debate.
Liberals think health care is a right and have made serious steps to expand that right to everyone. They should be open to improve how that right is expanded. But they should defend that right and point out that Republicans want to take it away.
UPDATE: Carroll’s post original said 15 million had gained coverage but Gallup’s poll only covers adults.[Image by Will O’Neill | Flickr]