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A very different kind of 'sticker shock'

At the height of the crisis over U.S. policy in Syria, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) delivered the Republican Party's weekly address on how much the GOP hates the Affordable Care Act. "Many families are going to have real sticker shock when they see their new insurance rates -- even families who get government subsidies," he said.

I'm beginning to think Barrasso may have been more correct than he realized. Many families may indeed have sticker shock when they realize how affordable access to coverage can be under the Affordable Care Act.

About 6.4 million Americans eligible to buy insurance through the new health exchanges will pay $100 or less a month in premiums because of tax subsidies, according to a Department of Health and Human Services report to be released today and obtained by USA TODAY.The report by the HHS office for planning and evaluation said the lower premiums would primarily apply to insurance customers who buy what are called "silver" plans on the exchanges that open Oct. 1."The health care law is making health insurance more affordable," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. "With more than half of all uninsured Americans able to get coverage at $100 or less, the health care law is delivering the quality, affordable coverage people are looking for."

In fairness, everyone won't be able to get coverage for $100 or less per month -- some will even see higher premiums for better insurance -- but the fact that 6.4 million Americans will have access to such affordable insurance is (a) remarkable; and (b) better than most of the optimistic estimates from a few years ago.

It's also the latest in a string of good news for "Obamacare": the public opposes the Republican crusade to defund the law; Medicaid expansion keeps expanding; there's anecdotal evidence to suggest Obamacare is helping create jobs; the law is picking up new friends from sports to drugstores; even opponents of the law are finding parts they like; and consumers are liking the law's benefits a lot more they expected to.

Even notable skeptics are starting to feel better. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who famously introduced the "train wreck" metaphor into the conversation earlier this year, is feeling a lot better about the law now. "We'll see Oct. 1, but I think they are doing a pretty good job," Baucus told the Fox Business Network yesterday.