It's become quite predictable: whenever there's a sudden burst of complaints from the right about "Obamacare" being a "failure," we're confronted with fresh evidence that critics of the Affordable Care Act have the story backwards.
More than 16 million people who did not have health insurance before have gained it through the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the federal government said Monday. More than 14 million adults have health insurance either from the new exchanges or through expanded access to Medicaid, the Health and Human Services Department said. Another 2 million young adults aged under 26 got health insurance because of a provision that allows their parents to keep them on their health insurance plans, HHS said.
If there were any consequences whatsoever for political leaders who make false claims, or if there was any expectation that rhetoric about health care should reflect reality in some way, Republicans might be in real trouble right now.
The full HHS report is available online here (pdf).
All told, as Sarah Kliff noted, this rapid improvement in expanding access has pushed the nation's uninsured rate from 20.3% to 13.2%, which represents "a 35-percent decline in the number of Americans who lack insurance coverage."
"Nothing since the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid has come close to this kind of change," Richard Frank, assistant secretary for evaluation and planning at Health and Human Services, said.
That history matters. By any sane measure, the Affordable Care Act is clearly working, but let's also not forget the scope of the law's success -- we're now talking about the Democratic health-care reform initiative having a greater impact than any American law in a generation.
Last week, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of the Senate GOP leadership and a Republican point person on health care policy, insisted that the good news should be ignored. "It's time for the White House to stop celebrating and start thinking about the people," Barrasso said on the Senate floor.
It's a bizarre perspective because -- and this is key -- ACA proponents are thinking about the people. When 16.4 million Americans have access to affordable medical care, those aren't just numbers on the page; they're American citizens who are better off because of this law.
That is, at least for now. If Republicans on the Supreme Court gut the law, roughly 8 million Americans will suffer. If Republicans in Congress repeal the law, the vast majority of these 16.4 million Americans will lose their coverage.
In the meantime, though, we've reached the point at which GOP candidates and officeholders should probably be laughed at when they insist "Obamacare" is a "disaster."
What's more, note that it's not just today's report -- there’s been all kinds of great news lately. In addition to the success in bringing coverage to the uninsured, the law's price tag is lower than expected; it's producing impressive results on premiums, enrollment totals, and customer satisfaction rates; we’re seeing the lowest increase in health care spending in 50 years; the number of insurers who want to participate in exchange marketplaces keeps growing; there’s reduced financial stress on families, the efficacy of Medicaid expansion is obvious, as is the efficacy of the medical-loss ratio and efforts to reduce medical errors system-wide.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) last week called the ACA a “monstrosity.” I haven't the foggiest idea what he was talking about.