In April, President Obama stunned much of the political world with a striking announcement: 8 million Americans had enrolled through an exchange marketplace for health care coverage, well ahead of earlier projections. After a couple of months in which the Affordable Care Act didn’t work, the enrollment figures were powerful evidence of a remarkable success story.
Republicans, slightly stunned, scrambled to come up with a new complaint. The White House, they argued, “cooked the books.” The 8 million may sound impressive, GOP officials argued, but no one should take it seriously because we don’t know how many consumers will pay their premiums. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said as many as a third of these Americans don’t really count towards the overall tally.
In May, congressional Republicans were so invested in this talking point, they even released a painfully ridiculous “report” that was thoroughly discredited soon after its publication – the GOP lawmakers were exposed as having publishing fraudulent claims.
The conservative talking points look even worse now.
The Obama administration said Thursday that 7.3 million people who bought private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act had paid their premiums and were still enrolled.Marilyn B. Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, disclosed the latest count at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
In other words, a little over 91% of the 8 million consumers who enrolled through an ACA exchange marketplace ended up getting insurance and paying for it. Everything Republicans claimed and predicted about this figure turned out to be wrong – which is a sentence I feel like I’ve typed quite a few times when it comes to Republicans and “Obamacare.”
Of course, 7.3 million isn’t exactly 8 million, and 91% isn’t 100%. Is this cause for concern for those hoping to see the American system succeed?
Actually, no. Igor Volsky explained that Americans’ interactions with the health care system change all the time, and that’s nothing new.
Maybe some folks used an exchange, but then got a job that offered employer-based coverage. Perhaps they enrolled, but then qualified for Medicaid or Medicare. Maybe a lot of things.
Whatever the case, the fact that 7.3 million American consumers enrolled and paid their premiums is evidence of success. The “death spiral” won’t happen; the chatter about the administration “cooking the books” was wrong.
What’s more, let’s not overlook the fact that most of the 7.3 million consumers are paying less than $100 a month for coverage.
Better yet, they like that coverage. Yesterday, the Commonwealth Fund released the results of a survey in which 68% of Americans who purchased coverage through the ACA are happy with their plans; 70% are confident they’ll get the care they need; and 71% are confident the care they receive will be of a high quality.
I’m trying to think of one thing the ACA’s conservative critics got right. I’m coming up empty.