The collapse of the case against Obamacare

Even as Republicans plot ways to repeal Obamacare, the reality is that the havoc they predicted the law would produce simply has not occurred.  You don’t have to take my word for it: there is now a wealth of independent evidence that not only disproves the predictions of dire harm but shows that millions of people are benefiting from it.

Let’s compare some of the predictions to what has actually happened:

Prediction: Obamacare will bankrupt the country with higher health care spending.

Actual outcome: You’d have to go back to when Elvis Presley was making hit records to find a time when health care spending went up as little as it has since Obamacare became law. Health Affairs, the leading journal of healthcare policy, reports that “During the past five years, health care spending grew at historically low rates, between 3.6 percent and 4.1 percent each year.. . . Per enrollee growth in total Medicare spending was relatively flat: It increased just 0.2 percent in 2013 after a growth rate of less than 0.1 percent in 2012...”

Prediction: Obamacare will cause employer-sponsored health insurance premiums to go through the roof.

Actual outcome: According to a national survey of over 2,000 employers conducted from January 2014 through May 2014, “Family premiums increased at a modest rate [3 percent] and single premiums are not statistically different than those reported last year.”  Bloomberg News reports that health insurance premiums for employers “increased faster before [Obamacare] was enacted...” 

What about for small businesses—weren’t they hit with big increases because of Obamacare?  “Actually, the opposite is true” says Bloomberg.  “At companies with 3 to 199 employees, annual premiums in 2014 averaged $15,849—1.7 percent more than in 2013, when average premiums were 2.2 percent higher than in 2012”—compared to a 3.3 percent increase for companies with 200 or  more employees. 

Prediction: Obamacare will cause employers to drop coverage.

Actual outcome: Two new surveys of employers, one by the employee benefits firm Mercer and one by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management, concluded that “Fewer employers said they are likely to drop health benefits within the next five years than was the case in Mercer’s most recent previous survey” and that “(J)ust 1 percent of employers said they have decided to stop offering health coverage for 2015.” 

Prediction: the premiums charged by insurers in Obamacare’s exchanges will “skyrocket.”

Actual outcome: A new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that on average, premiums for a benchmark “silver” plan (which covers 70 percent of the cost of required benefits) will be only 2% higher in 2015 than in 2014. For a “bronze” plan (which covers 60 percent), it will be only 4% higher. While premiums vary considerably across markets, for most people in most areas, premiums did not increase significantly.

Prediction: people who are “forced” to enroll in Obamacare will be stuck with health plans that they will hate.

Actual outcome: People who enrolled in Obamacare plans tend to rate their coverage very highly and are more satisfied with the cost of their healthcare than the rest of the insured population.  In to a Gallup survey, 71% said their Obamacare coverage was good or excellent, 19% said it was fair, and only 9% said it was “poor.”  And 75% of Obamacare enrollees are satisfied with the cost of care compared to the 61% of all insured persons nationwide.

Prediction: Obamacare will cause more people to lose their insurance than the number who will gain coverage.

Actual outcome: Studies have found that more than 10 million previously uninsured persons gained coverage last year, resulting in a dramatic drop in the uninsured rate.  By comparison, the Rand Corporation estimates that “fewer than 1 million people who had private health insurance lost their coverage when their plans were cancelled because they did not meet the new requirements of the law...[T]he overall number is very small, representing less than 1 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 64.”

Of course, not everyone has experienced these positive results. Some people faced above-average premium increases, some don’t like the coverage and cost of the Obamacare plans available in their area, and some who had their plan cancelled dislike the replacement plan they were forced to buy.  It is also true that gaining coverage does not necessarily guarantee good access to physicians and hospitals, and despite the recently slowdown in cost increases, many people still find health care too expensive. 

We also can’t be certain that these positive trends will continue indefinitely. And it is possible that the critics’ predictions of Obamacare havoc could still come to pass, although that seems unlikely based on the evidence to date. 

John Adams once said that, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."    There is still a lot of passionate opposition to Obamacare, for sure, but such passion cannot alter the state of facts and evidence that shows the law is helping millions of people get access to healthcare.

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