San Jose Mercury News: Enrollment numbers show Obamacare is here to stay
There are two things we know for sure from the last-minute surge to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act:
We are a nation of procrastinators.
And a lot of Americans really, really want health insurance.
President Barack Obama took a victory lap Tuesday after announcing the number of private health insurance enrollees had topped 7 million, including more than 1 million in the final five days alone. That matches the original estimate made last year, before the disastrous rollout of the federal exchange website.
It is an unquestionable win for Obama in the still-brutal political battle over his signature presidential achievement. It shows the demand for his reforms is significant and that, fundamentally, Obamacare is here to stay.
Just imagine how many more people would have enrolled without that botched rollout. Or without the campaign of obstruction waged by Republican politicians, many of whom declined to build exchanges for their states, refused to expand Medicaid — even though it was almost entirely paid by the federal government — for uninsured residents and actively discouraged constituents from participating in the health care expansion, even when it would save them money and improve their health.
The 7 million figure is on top of the more than 4 million who have signed up for Medicaid nationwide, and a Rand Corp. study this week estimates that at least 9.5 million previously uninsured Americans are among the enrollees. In Kentucky, for example, the uninsured rate is expected to decline by more than 40 percent, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Let’s hope that reality sets in soon among die-hard opponents of the law who, as Obama said Tuesday, are oddly angry about the fact that people are obtaining health insurance. These folks have repeatedly predicted the law would fail, often based on a faulty grasp of the facts.
Just last month House Speaker John Boehner said the number of people who had lost coverage as a result of the law was larger than the number who had obtained it. The Rand survey debunks that: It says fewer than 1 million have lost policies and not yet enrolled in new ones. And of course, those people are now guaranteed the ability to get new policies, sometimes at a lower cost.
The fact is that the ACA remains imperfect but is helping to improve the health and economic security of millions of American families. Yet Congressional Republicans continue pledging to repeal it without offering a hint of what they might suggest in return.
The Affordable Care Act will not be repealed or replaced. It does need improvement, but for that to happen, opponents have to drop their absurd rhetoric about it and come to the table with workable ideas designed to improve the law, not kill it.