January 1, 2014, was a monumental day for President Obama and fellow Americans. It was the first day that the new health care regulations and protections for Americans took effect. Despite Republican’s hopes, the world did not come to a fiery end. Instead, December was a very good month for President Obama and those signing up for new coverage. Despite getting off to a rocky start, healthcare.gov managed to sign up over 1 million people to a new policy in the month. When combined with the state-run exchanges, over 3 million people have signed up for health insurance.
While it is slightly less people than the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projected, considering the issues with the website, it’s a number to be proud of. It puts the Obama Administration on good footing to reach their ultimate goal of 7 million new subscribers.
When the CBO created their projections, they planned on a fully functional website from day one.
“October and November were essentially lost months,” says Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “December is the first month where we’re getting an indication of how things are working. It’s starting to track with what people, particularly the CBO, projected originally.”
In October, only 27,000 visitors were able to sign up for coverage through the federal exchange. The CBO had estimated 494,000 people to sign up for coverage in October. November saw another 100,000 new plans chosen. While it was a testament to the improving site, it was far below the projected 706,000.
The deadline to sign up for a health insurance plan that would start on January 1, 2014, was December 24, 2013. At that time, more than 1 million people signed up for coverage in December alone. Since December was the first month that the federal exchange was operating properly, the number is more likely a proper indication of what to expect. When combined with the state-run exchanges, it is expected that new plan enrollments will reach over 3 million for the month of December.
If the numbers continue to rise through the March 2014 deadline, it is very likely that the Obama Administration can still achieve their 7 million new enrollees.
There is another problem that the CBO did not anticipate that is holding up the true potential of ObamaCare and its ability to provide affordable coverage to everybody. The CBO and the Obama Administration did not expect so many Republican Governors and GOP controlled state legislatures to remain obstinate against ObamaCare.
Since these states are not expanding their Medicaid, access is being restricted to many that otherwise would be able to receive free or low-cost healthcare. Inevitably, this is causing some to delay signing up for coverage, for fear that they make too much to receive Medicaid, but not enough to be able to handle a monthly premium.
If healthcare.gov is not successful in reaching their 7 million goal, Republicans will seize the moment to paint ObamaCare as a massive failure. However, one need look no further than Medicare Part-D to show the hypocrisy in their cynicism. Medicare Part-D got off to a very rocky, and very similar start—much as the Affordable Care Act did. The difference is, Democrats did not want to scrap the entire program. Instead the Democrats stood with Republicans in helped fix the program so it would work for seniors.
As of January 1, 2014, millions of Americans across the country are able to see a doctor for the first time in their lives. Millions of Americans are able to get treatment they previously could not afford. Millions no longer have to worry about bankruptcy if they become ill, or being kicked off the rolls because they reached their lifetime limit.
If Republicans have a better plan to proceed forward, they have had ample time to develop on. Their plan is to go back to the old system. There is not one among us that loved our insurance company. Plans being canceled when you need it the most, pre-approval’s being denied, rates increasing double digits, refusal to pay certain bills, being denied life saving medications.
Perhaps one of the most significant changes to the insurance industry is the 80/20 rule, which requires insurance companies to spend 80% of their profits on their policy holders, while only 20% may go to administrative costs. The rest must be refunded to their members. While the refund may go to most people’s employers, for those who purchase insurance on their own, any excessive profits will be given back.
While Republicans continue waxing poetically of the good ol’ days when insurance companies were unregulated and free to behave however they want, those days are over. The only way now is forward. That may be strengthening Obamacare, a public option, or a single-payer system. When all is said and done, no fair-thinking American will want to return to the old status quo that left tens of millions of Americans straddled with debt and uninsured.
Sam Seder takes a few minutes to debunk a redstate.com article against ObamaCare.