There has been some interesting news on the “Obamacare” front recently. First it was reported that there was a sharp increase in health care spending. The 9.9 percent rise for the first quarter of 2014 accounted for most of what would otherwise have been an anemic increase in economic growth over the same period. Right-wing pundits wasted no time in deliberately misinterpreting this as a rise in health care costs—which in fact rose only 0.6 percent during the same period—but most analysts say that it is an indication that Obamacare is actually working. People who had no or poor healthcare coverage before and had been putting off seeking medical care are now seeking care that was once out of their reach.
Other factors for the “shockingly” steep rise just might have something to do with the fact that the economy is finally being seen as improving by consumers following the worst economic downturn this country had seen since the Great Depression, and accounted for a minimal rise health care spending for the past several years. None of this should be “shocking” or a “surprise” to anyone, but as a positive result of the Affordable Care Act. With more people having access to affordable preventative care—rather than waiting until a problem becomes an “emergency”—health care spending and costs should stabilize in time.
In follow-up news, according to a Gallup poll 13.4 percent of Americans are still uninsured. Bad news? It is the lowest uninsured rate since Gallup first started conducting the poll. This is down from 18 percent in the third quarter of 2013. The uninsured rate had been on the rise since the 2008 recession, and apparently there was a sudden “spike” before the ACA sign-up period, as some employers offering health insurance that did not meet the ACA’s minimum standards withdrew coverage. But the subsequent sharp downward trend in uninsured indicates that most of these same people signed on to the ACA. While all demographics (with the exception of Hispanics) benefited enormously from the availability of affordable coverage, households with income levels of over $90,000 actually saw the sharpest drops (as a percentage) in being uninsured.
The Right’s persistent insistence that “Obamacare” was a failure was based mostly on the “rocky” start-up, due mainly to the incompetence of the those responsible for designing the sign-up software. But since then more than 8 million people signed up for the ACA, 1 million more than anticipated. This does not count state sponsored plans and expanded Medicare. Unfortunately for Republicans and the Tea Party, public acceptance of the ACA is certain to grow over the next two years, and any effort to repeal it is just as certain to be a political loser for them. Opposition to the ACA is now only an indication of how much Republicans want to maintain a have and have-not society.