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Obamacare’s Meager ‘Success’ Part II

March 17, 2015

Judging by an article in The Atlantic yesterday, we're apparently supposed to be impressed with Obamacare's touted reduction of 16.4 million in the number of uninsured.The number of uninsured Americans has dropped by 16.

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Judging by an article in The Atlantic yesterday, we're apparently supposed to be impressed with Obamacare's touted reduction of 16.4 million in the number of uninsured.

The number of uninsured Americans has dropped by 16.4 million since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to numbers released today. From the time that open enrollment began in October 2013 to present, the rate of uninsured Americans decreased by 35 percent. That is the biggest improvement in 40 years.

A quick consideration of a few items help put this in context though, and demonstrate why this is hardly the progress it's claimed to be. Consider:

1. The U.S. economy added 3 million jobs last year, a decent but not stellar increase (the economy grew at a 2.4 percent rate throughout the entire year, well under what most would consider good). Some number of those newly employed along with their family members got employer-based coverage not as a result of Obamacare, but because they got a job. It's hard to know exactly how many at this point, but it seems reasonable to think it's somewhere in the 2-3 million range. So you can take that off of the 16.4 million figure claimed by Obamacare advocates.

2. The lion's share of the newly covered, 14.1 million according to the story, enrolled in Medicaid (I actually think that number may be a bit high). Medicaid is better than nothing, but barely. It's also driving many states deeply into budget crisis territory. Expanding terrible coverage at a high cost may qualify as good in some people's book, but not mine.

3. The administration is touting nearly 12 million signups through the exchanges, but if the numbers look anything like what they did last year (and they probably do), around half of those previously had insurance and simply bought on the exchange instead of the open market.

Take all of these things into consideration and what you basically have regarding Obamacare is a massive expansion of a failing Medicaid program offering poor coverage at a high cost, alongside a modest reduction in the number of uninsured from private coverage bought on the exchanges.

So I'll be keeping my champagne corked for a little while at least, and continue to call Obamacare's 'success' meagre at best.

Article Tags
Health Care
Author
Sean Parnell (sparnell@heartland.org) is a research fellow for health policy at The Heartland Institute.
sparnell@heartland.org @seandparnell