Have you heard the latest on the Affordable Care Act?
That setup line has been used in the stand-up routines of Leno, Letterman and every would-be comedian since the bill was signed. It has also been used to start tirades by political opponents who predicted doom and despair would follow in its wake.
But just as nothing is ever as wonderfully flawless as supporters claim, it is also never as much of a total disaster as opponents warn.
There is absolutely no question the legislation contained such vast and dramatic changes that problems were inevitable. This bill was like trying to turn an aircraft carrier in a swimming pool. Even with a trained crew in an ocean miles from any obstacles, an aircraft carrier isn’t the easiest or fastest thing to maneuver. It takes skill, everyone working together, and it takes some time.
Despite all the well documented issues the ACA has battled through — and the other flaws that will arise as time goes by — have you heard the latest?
The percentage of Americans without health insurance has dropped to the lowest level since before President Obama took office. As time was ticking down for people to sign up, just 14.7 percent of adults were without coverage in the second half of March, according to a Gallup survey. That is down from 18 percent in the last quarter of 2013. Gallup’s results, which were similar to other recent polling data and enrollment reports, show 8 million people gained insurance since September.
The results took into account any losses of coverage through cancellations of health plans that did not meet the new standards.
In fact, the 8 million who recently acquired insurance did not include those who received coverage before the third quarter of 2013, such as the 3 million young people who were allowed to stay on their parents’ health plans until they turn 26 or the low-income Americans who got coverage in states that expanded their safety net programs before 2014. The number of people with insurance will continue to grow since the enrollment period has been extended in many states.
A benefit to all Americans is this should take pressure off the far-more-expensive services that were being accessed through emergency rooms by people without health insurance. These savings may slow what has been a rapidly escalating cost of health care.
According to a story by the Los Angeles Times, the Gallup survey showed the biggest drop in uninsured was among African-Americans, Latinos and households earning less than $36,000 a year.
Does this mean the ACA is a success? No. But it does mean there is some positive movement. Only time will tell whether this program will end up rivaling the success of Social Security or become a costly failure like Prohibition.
The deciding factor will be whether the public receives sufficient benefits from the program to start pressuring their representatives in Congress to cooperate, fix it and make it better rather than trying to tear it down.