Julian Gomez (L) explains Obamacare to people at a health insurance enrolment event in Commerce, California March 31, 2014.
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Putting the ‘Affordable’ in the Affordable Care Act

In recent years, the right has struggled to produce many top-tier health care wonks, but among conservatives, Avik Roy is ostensibly a fairly credible guy who takes policy more seriously than the typical pundit. And so it was of interest to see Roy’s latest piece for Forbes, in which he asks an important question: “[D]oes the Affordable Care Act live up to its name? Does it make health insurance less expensive?”
According to Roy’s research, the answer is no. He tells readers that he and his Manhattan Institute team have done a “county-by-county” study and determined – wouldn’t you know it – that premiums have gone up. The Heritage Foundation was thrilled.
Brian Beutler, however, noticed a problem. Way down in the 12th of 17 paragraphs, Roy mentions, “Remember that these figures represent the underlying, unsubsidized health insurance prices.” In other words, the first 11 paragraphs talked about premiums while omitting the most important detail: these aren’t the prices consumers are actually paying. Roy wanted to know whether the ACA “makes health insurance less expensive,” but in the process, he paints a misleading picture, obscuring the actual, out-of-pocket costs for consumers, many of whom are buying coverage subsidized through “Obamacare.”
But if that report is deceptive, what’s true? This is.
The Americans who qualify for tax credits through the new federal insurance exchange are paying an average of $82 a month in premiums for their coverage – about one-fourth the bill they would have faced without such financial help, according to a new government analysis. […]
The 28-page report, by the Department of Health and Human Services, is the government’s first effort to gauge the affordability and availability of health plans under the Affordable Care Act, now that the first insurance sign-up period has ended.
Health security for 82 bucks a month. Not too shabby. German Lopez noted that millions of Americans are now paying less for health insurance than cable TV.
This is, of course, an average. In some states, out-of-pocket premiums are lower, in others, higher. Costs also vary based on what kind of plan consumers choose.
But the HHS report, available in its entirety here, nevertheless helps prove that the ACA is doing exactly what it’s intended to do: expanding competition and making medical care more affordable.
This, coupled with last week’s news (and the news the week before that), very likely disappoints those rooting against the American health care system and hoping to see it fail. But for everyone else, there’s reason for optimism.