Last week U.S. Representative Jim Renacci treated his constituents to a “report” on the effects of implementing the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in Ohio. Republican Renacci, as we know, opposed the ACA from the start, and has voted repeatedly to repeal it – without, however, offering any viable alternative for the uninsured. He now asks us to believe that he has conducted a fair and objective review of the ACA in Ohio, and found – surprise, surprise! – that the effects of the new law are absolutely disastrous.
Apparently Renacci’s “research” consisted of chatting with a few individuals and business owners in his heavily-gerrymandered 16th District. The folks he talked with said they’re unhappy about Obamacare, and that was good enough for Jim. From this extensive and unimpeachable data, Renacci concluded that the ACA is a complete failure not only in Ohio, but nationwide.
Look, there’s no question that there have been problems with the rollout of the ACA. When the web-based registration system was launched a year ago, it was initially a disaster. But it’s now up and running smoothly. Some insurance companies have cancelled policies and raised rates, but that’s not the fault of the ACA! It’s the cynical self-interest of the health insurance industry, which has always wanted to limit their risks, cherry-pick their enrollees, and maximize their profits.
Some people have had difficulty navigating the many options for coverage and subsidies, but they’re figuring it out. The proof of that is in a gold-standard research study just published by the National Health Interview Survey, showing that the number of uninsured Americans has dropped substantially:
The number of uninsured Americans fell by about 8 percent to 41 million people in the first quarter of this year, compared with 2013, a drop that represented about 3.8 million people and that roughly matched what experts were expecting based on polling by private groups, like Gallup.
The decrease in the number of uninsured was steepest in Red states, and in states which chose to expand Medicaid coverage. Case in point: Kentucky, where the rate of uninsured has dropped 8 percentage points. Poor Mitch McConnell, locked in a tight race to keep his seat in the U.S. Senate, is spinning like a top to rationalize his continuing condemnation of the ACA and the reality of its clear success in his own state.
As Paul Krugman recently pointed out, the doomsday scenarios chanted by the far Right have not come to pass. Comprehensive research shows that, nationwide, the massive majority of people who signed up did indeed pay their premiums and get covered. And most of them are happy with their coverage.
Back here in Ohio, the “doomsayers” have been promising huge hikes in health insurance rates, but it looks like they’re wrong again: The state’s insurance regulators have just approved rates for 2015, and the scenario is pretty benign. Some rates will probably go down. Some might go up a bit. Some might go up a lot. The free market will continue to function. Insurers will, naturally, keep trying to maximize returns for their top executives and shareholders.
So thanks for your concern, Jim Renacci, but you’ll need to find another hobbyhorse for your election campaign this Fall. Obamacare is alive and well. It’s helping Ohioans, and Americans across the country, get quality health care insurance. Perhaps you could focus your indignation instead on profit-gouging by the insurance companies? No? Didn’t think so.