The roll-out of Healthcare.gov, the federal online marketplace to purchase insurance under Obamacare, has been beleaguered and ridiculed, to say the least. The media and talk-show hosts have had a field day, and of course the “botched roll out” has been the target of unrelenting criticism from Congressional Republicans. On November 14th, House Speaker John Boehner declared, “The only way to fully protect the American people is to scrap this law once and for all.” However, the critics of Healthcare.gov’s rollout have in large part ignored the substantive successes of the state based exchanges, and the defenders of the system may have the last laugh by the fall of 2014.
According to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit which has been tracking Obamacare enrollment data, November produced a remarkable “enrollment surge” in state plans that were enabled and encouraged under the Affordable Care Act. Peter Lee, who is director of California’s exchange “Covered California,” is quoted in the LA Times: “What we are seeing is incredible momentum.” The Commonwealth Fund reports California’s exchange as having enrolled nearly 80,000 people in private insurance plans through the state exchange. Already off to a hot start in October, Covered California’s enrollments have almost doubled in the first two weeks of November.
Gov. Steve Beshear (D-KY), the only southern governor to elect Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, has been singing the praises of Kentucky’s state health care exchange. Kentucky’s marketplace Kynect has been enrolling nearly 1,000 people per day in health care plans. Nearly 50,000 Kentuckians have signed up for new health-care coverage. For a state with 15% of its population uninsured, Kynect’s popularity is a very good sign that the Affordable Care Act is working in Kentucky. Gov. Beshear believes in the virtues of the Affordable Care Act so strongly, he recently co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post with fellow governors Jay Inslee of Washington and Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, titled: “How we got Obamacare to work.”
In New York and Washington as well, the state based exchanges are drawing high demand from folks looking for affordable health care. Per the Commonwealth Fund, New York state has seen nearly 50,000 enrollments in marketplace plans; Washington state has seen nearly 100,000 enrollments. Minnesota is a state with a relatively low number of uninsured compared to national figures, and even so, enrollments through the state-exchange have nearly tripled since its first two weeks of open enrollment.
In states where Governors have accepted Medicaid expansion and set up state exchanges, the Affordable Care Act is working well. Uninsured folks, many for the first time ever, are getting access to affordable health care. Moreover, the structural and macroeconomic reforms of the law are working even better than expected. According to the Washington Post, “health care costs have been growing more slowly over the last three years than any other time period since 1965.”
As evidenced by Speaker Boehner’s comments, some folks on the Hill will continue to demand full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. With the successes of the state exchanges piling up, and as the Obama Administration gets Healthcare.gov fixed, will the “full repeal” message remain tenable with the American public? Brian Beutler of Salon notes an important insight in all of this: Congressmen still supporting full repeal of the Affordable Care Act are now advocating a policy position that would literally take health care coverage away from millions of Americans.
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