The last few months haven’t quite gone according to plan for the Affordable Care Act and its proponents, but more so than at any time in a long while, “Obamacare” supporters are feeling optimistic.
If Democrats get their way, the next phase of the Obamacare wars will see something unusual: a flood of success stories.The White House, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy organizations will launch a campaign this week to highlight real-life experiences under the Affordable Care Act – tales so compelling that they help drive up enrollment, marginalize Republican repeal efforts and erase memories of this fall’s HealthCare.gov debacle.
To make this happen, a couple of obvious boxes will need to be checked. First, healthcare.gov will actually have to work – and by all appearances, the technical problems that burdened the site for two months are largely a thing of the past.
And second, consumers will have to actually enroll for coverage. On this, the news is even better – as of Christmas Eve, “more than 1.1 million” Americans had signed up for health care coverage through the federal exchange marketplace. This doesn’t include state exchanges or folks who’ll gain coverage through Medicaid.
The good news for the ACA is that this reflects the December surge the administration has long predicted. The bad news is, these enrollment totals are well below the administration’s initial projections. For that matter, it’d be a mistake to assume that the figures will continue to grow at the recent pace – December enrollment got a boost from a pressing deadline, but there will be no such pressure on consumers in January or February.
But ultimately, the story about health care is really about helping American families gain access to quality, affordable care. As Jonathan Cohn explained, “More important, we know that many of the people getting insurance are very, very happy to have it. In the fall, when insurers began sending notices of rate increases and plan cancellations, all we heard about was people unhappy with – and in many cases angry about – their new options. Now, however, we are increasingly hearing stories about people who are saving money and, in some cases, getting access to health care they’ve desperately needed for a long time.”
How happy are these folks? Lena Sun and Amy Goldstein had a great piece over the weekend documenting the real-life experiences of some overjoyed consumers. “Getting Americans health insurance is at the heart of the health law,” they reported, adding, “This core mission has sometimes been obscured by the political and legal disputes that have dogged and, in important ways, altered the law. Strong research links having health insurance and being healthy. Having a health plan does not guarantee that a good doctor is within reach when a patient needs one. But insurance matters.”