Remember one of the main topics of conversation on Fox News and in the right-wing blogosphere this time last year? Of course, it was the “disastrous” rollout of Obamacare. Right-wing America was up in arms, using the problems with a flawed website as “proof” that the Affordable Care Act was a complete failure. Their glee was palpable.
Fast forward to 2014, and the Obamacare open enrollment period that began on November 15. The Healthcare.gov website is now functioning as it should, and people are easily signing up to renew coverage, or can choose new policies.
NBC News reports that around three million people visited Healthcare.gov during the first week of open enrollment for 2015. Out of that number, about 460,000 have signed up for new or renewed policies, prompting Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to remark, “We’re off to a solid start.”
HHS says that more than a million people have submitted applications for policies. The government is expecting around nine million to sign up for health insurance this year. That number is down by about four million from what the Obama administration was predicting in the spring. However, the number of Americans who now have health insurance is a big win for the Affordable Care Act. Although 32 million Americans still do not have health care coverage, that number is about 25 percent lower than it was at this time last year.
Republicans still intent on destroying Obamacare
Republicans have continued their non-stop media assault on the Affordable Care Act – now claiming that the law actually makes insurance unaffordable. They, and their media allies, have highlighted premium increases for policies purchased on the state and federal exchanges for 2015. However, in typical conservative fashion, the right is only telling the public part of that story.
Yes, premiums have increased on many insurance exchanges. But, what Republicans don’t want you to know is that whether your premium increases, and by how much, depends on where you live, and how old you are, as well as the type of policy you purchase. The non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation reports that,
Although premium changes vary substantially across and within states, premium changes for 2015 in general are modest when looking at the low-cost insurers in the marketplaces, where enrollment is concentrated.
Consumers in Alaska, and western Minnesota counties, are seeing the largest increases in premiums, on average. Consumers in Summit County, Colorado, are seeing the largest average decrease in premiums. Overall, KFF says that throughout all counties in the country, premiums for exchange based plans are up by about two to four percent. In 2007, three years before President Obama signed the ACA into law, the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress released a report that found premiums increased, on average, about 8.8 percent annually between 2004 and 2006. Of course, Republicans don’t want you to know that, either.
If you are concerned about losing your coverage thanks to the Republican takeover of congress, you can relax. Maggie Fox, of NBC News, offers several reasons why Republicans, for all their bluster, will actually do nothing about repealing Obamacare:
- President Obama still has veto power. Any law Republicans pass that guts provisions of the ACA will certainly face the veto pen.
- Republicans actually like parts of the law, and it keeps the private sector in charge, despite their claims to the contrary. Plus, insurance company stocks are way up, and insurance companies are big political donors.
- Voters say they disapprove of the law, but they overwhelmingly approve of many provisions in the law.
- People have insurance now, and Republicans don’t dare take it away. Gallup found that Obamacare helped as many as 10 million people get insurance through the exchanges over the past year. The Congressional Budget Office says that as many as 26 million will sign up by 2022.
- They can work with Democrats to tweak parts of the law, something that so far they have refused to do.
Republicans’ biggest problem with Obamacare is exactly what many said all along: the law is working, and they had nothing to do with its passage. Now, as year two of ACA signups is looking like it will be a huge success, Republicans might do best to follow that old NASCAR adage — lead, follow, or get out of the way.