Affordable Care Act hits important milestone

More than 7 million enroll in new health plans

April 8, 2014 

Health Overhaul

FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2013 file photo, Rosemary Cabelo uses a computer at a public library to access the Affordable Health Care Act website, in San Antonio. The Obama administration says following a December surge, more than 1.1 million people have now enrolled for health insurance through the federal governmentís improved website. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

ERIC GAY — AP

Last week marked a definite milestone, and perhaps a tipping point, in the drive to offer Americans better access to health insurance.

With the number of people enrolled in new, individual plans under the Affordable Care Act topping 7 million, the law has gained a level of acceptance that makes all the effort it took to get here worthwhile.

To be sure, there were moments when even ardent supporters harbored well-founded doubts, most notably after the disastrous roll-out of the HealthCare.gov website last fall. But despite last-minute difficulties, more than 4.8 million users visited the site on the last sign-up day, March 31, and hosted 185,700 concurrent users.

Given that the number of uninsured Americans has been estimated at nearly 50 million by the Census Bureau in 2011, the additional number obtaining coverage thanks to the ACA exchanges sounds small -- but that's not the full story.

Add to the 7 million the additional millions of people under age 26 who have been able to stay on their parents' plans, thanks to "Obamacare." Then add the estimated number who also gained coverage under Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) -- another 7 million, according to ACASignup.net.

In addition, according to news reports, a Rand Corp. study found that about 9 million people have bought health plans directly from insurers, instead of using the marketplaces. The vast majority of these, Rand found, were previously uninsured.

Bringing millions of previously uninsured individuals and families under the coverage umbrella, with all the peace of mind and healthier outcomes that implies, is a good start -- and a great measure of vindication for the administration and ACA's supporters.

Remarkably, the progress was achieved in spite of an unending barrage of negative publicity, much of it unfounded. For example:

• The claim that Obamacare would produce a loss of 2.5 million jobs. False, according to Florida PolitiFact. What the Congressional Budget Office reported is that by 2024, the hourly equivalent of 2.5 million jobs would be lost by people choosing to leave the workforce because insurance is no longer tied to employment -- which is a good thing. That includes those choosing to work independently or to work fewer hours. This is not the same as a "lost job."

• Sen. Marco Rubio's recent video was also rated mostly false by PolitiFact. He said more and more Americans were opposed to ACA. Actually, polls show that anywhere from 35 percent to 51 percent of Americans don't support ACA, but the number has stayed steady since 2011. The level may well decrease as the plan takes hold.

What critics of the plan don't have is a reasonable alternative that can provide the increased level of coverage that ACA offers. That's always been a glaring weakness in the anti-Obamacare argument.

Instead of working against increased coverage, critics should find a way to help the still uninsured. In Florida, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 764,000 uninsured adults would have been eligible for Medicaid if the state accepted expanded coverage under ACA.

Their inability to obtain access to healthcare because Republican lawmakers in Florida opposed the Affordable Care Act is an indictment of the Legislature's malign indifference to their plight.

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