Affordable Care Act, healthcare, Obamacare — September 18, 2015 at 9:01 am

Obamacare, still working: A good news round-up


The positive stories about the ACA are starting to outnumber the negative ones. It’s about time.

Two years ago, it wasn’t easy to find a positive story about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), derisively called Obamacare by its critics. It wasn’t that there wasn’t plenty of good news to share, but the media loves a bad-news story.

But now, with the name “Obamacare” considered well-deserved praise for the President who ensured its passage, the good news just keeps on coming. Here’s a sampling of some of the positive stories released this week.

2014 Census data shows how well the ACA is working.

According to the Center for American Progress, “poverty and health care measures for 2014 provide indisputable proof” that the ACA is improving access to healthcare across the country:

Since these new data only cover 2014, they do not include the full second open enrollment period of the ACA’s marketplaces and thus understate the full impact of the ACA. As evident from the recently released National Health Interview Survey, however, the national uninsured rate had dropped by about one-third to a historic low of 9.2 percent as of early 2015, with 15.8 million people gaining coverage since the ACA’s marketplaces opened in late 2013.

You can read the full report from the Center for American Progress, including a state-level look at the impact of the ACA, HERE.

More Michiganders had coverage in 2014.

The same Census Bureau data showed that 235,000 more Michiganders had health insurance in 2014 than in 2013, a 2.4% jump from 2013. This improvement is largely due to the Healthy Michigan Plan, even though it was only in effect for nine months in 2014, says the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP). States like Michigan that have expanded Medicaid to include more people collectively had a higher share of people with insurance than states that did not expand Medicaid, and that gap is growing.

“The Census data reveals what we have been striving toward for years — the Affordable Care Act and the Healthy Michigan Plan are working, allowing more residents to get the medical care they need at a price they can afford,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the MLPP.

Health policy experts at the Census Bureau have also attributed the drop in uninsured Americans nationwide to the ACA, according to the Detroit Free Press.

In Detroit, the uninsured rate dropped by 5.2 percentage points.

That significant drop reflects the fact that 57,290 fewer Wayne County residents were uninsured in 2014 than the previous year. When fewer people are uninsured, it relieves the financial burden on others who pay for their own insurance, as well as state and hospital resources used to provide for the uninsured.

From Erin Knott, Michigan state director of Enroll America:

Today’s announcement from the U.S Census Bureau that more than 57,000 Wayne County residents got health coverage in 2014 reaffirms what we’ve long known to be true and have witnessed firsthand on the ground: uninsured Michiganders are eager to enroll in new, affordable coverage options. Across the state, the Affordable Care Act is making quality health coverage more accessible for every community, especially for low income families and communities of color. And thanks to the financial assistance that lowers monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs, coverage is affordable for many more Michiganders.

The ACA is not negatively impacting employer health insurance.

An oft-cited piece of anti-ACA propaganda was the notion that the surge in newly insured Americans under the ACA weren’t actually newly insured people at all, but people who gave up or lost their employer-provided insurance because of the ACA. There were also claims that the ACA would force employers to stop providing coverage.

Another anti-Obamacare myth has been disproved. Here, the New York Times explains the results from the Census:

The report found that the number of Americans with employer coverage held steady — there was no statistically significant change between 2013 and 2014. Some employers probably did stop offering their workers coverage. And maybe more will follow suit. But in 2014, it looks as if the new marketplace customers came from the ranks of the previously uninsured. So far, it doesn’t look as if the new insurance options mean the beginning of the end of employer-sponsored coverage.

More Americans getting insured linked to better chronic disease management.

This may be my favorite report of the week, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

A new study led by researchers there showed that people with health insurance are more likely to have their high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure correctly diagnosed — and to have these chronic conditions under control — than similar uninsured people.

Using these results and 10-year Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the researchers developed an estimate of the number of Americans who might benefit from improved diagnosis and treatment of chronic disease through the expansion of health insurance coverage. They estimated that if the number of nonelderly Americans without health insurance were reduced by half, as the CBO projects, there would be 1.5 million newly insured individuals diagnosed with one or more of these conditions, and 659,000 newly insured individuals able to achieve control of at least one condition.

From senior author Joshua Salomon, professor of global health:

These effects constitute a major positive outcome from the ACA. Our study suggests that insurance expansion is likely to have a large and meaningful effect on diagnosis and management of some of the most important chronic illnesses affecting the U.S. population.

A reduced financial burden on everyone because more people are insured, and more Americans getting the health services they need to get and stay healthy? Now that’s what I call good news.

[CC photo by Will O’Neill | Flickr]