mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
ACA Amnesia
The ACA Has Not Succeeded as Promised

Never mind all that bad news you’ve been hearing about Obamacare: The New York Times is ready to pronounce it a resounding success. In a flashy new piece on its site, the Times has isolated seven metrics that we can use to judge whether the law is working: decreasing the number of uninsured people; providing affordable insurance; improving health outcomes; delivering a functional, convenient health care shopping experience; helping the health care industry; expanding Medicaid; and slowing down health care spending nationally. Taken together, says the Times, these factors show that “the Affordable Care Act has largely succeeded in delivering on President Obama’s main promises.”

Here’s a taste, from the section on health outcomes:

The most basic measure, the share of young people without insurance, shows sharp improvement. The share of 19- to 25-year-olds without health insurance declined to 21 percent in the first quarter of this year, from 34 percent in 2010. That is a decline of about four million people. The current uninsured percentage for that age group is the lowest since the National Health Interview Survey — a large federal survey considered to be a gold standard by researchers — started tracking it in 1997 […]

A few benefits, however, came early under the law, and some seemed to make a difference. Starting in 2010, the law required that insurance plans cover preventive screenings without charge to patients. One screening that has jumped is the colonoscopy. Screening rates for people with private insurance went from 48 percent in 2010 to 56 percent in 2012, according to the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a health research nonprofit organization that collects data from the majority of health plans in the country.

The article tells us how much the newly insured are using health care, but that begs the question: has the ACA actually improved health outcomes? One of the primary contentions of ACA skeptics is precisely that subsidized health insurance does not necessarily improve the health of the people who use it.

The sections on the other six metrics are beset with similar problems. For example, the article correctly notes that the number of uninsured Americans has dropped under the law, but then quickly admits that network restrictions or high co-pays may prevent that insurance from being useful to them.

The biggest flaw in the piece, however, is its framing, which suggests that the promises President Obama made at the time of the law’s passage have been fulfilled. Remember how extravagant they were? Obama promised that individuals who liked their current plans could keep them; we all saw how that turned out. The CBO predicted in 2012 that 14 million would be insured under Obamacare in its first year; according to the NYT, somewhere between 8 million to 11 million people have been covered so far. We don’t know enough yet to say whether the actual rate will be on the low end or the high end of the range. Obama promised that the ACA would “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year”; the NYT offers no evidence showing that promise has been approximated.

The list goes on. Whatever individual, incremental improvements the NYT has found to praise Obamacare, the simple fact is that President Obama over-promised and under-delivered.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Jmaci

    Any positive story about the ACA needs to be looked at skeptically:
    The government has been reluctant — make that unwilling — to release actual figures on enrollment, policies paid for, composition of the risk pool, health status of the pool etc. Also Obama has delayed or changed so many of the “features” of the law that even the CBO says it can no longer accurately calculate its effect on the economy.
    And it’s not even clear how many of the 8 million people who signed up for insurance were uninsured and how many simply defaulted to the exchanges when their sub-standard policies were canceled.
    The worst of the ACA is yet to come.

  • qet

    That is not the biggest flaw. The biggest flaw is that every one of the NYT’s statements is false save for the statement about “helping the health care industry,” if by that term you mean hospital and insurance company CEOs. The first claim about more people having insurance now may be true but only in a completely nominal sense, begging the question: is it actually a good to force people to purchase insurance that by their own admission they can’t pay for? There has been a tsunami of reports in recent months–most of them mentioned by TAI on this site–that contradict every other claim, so the NYT is just going full and unashamedly Goebbels with this propaganda piece.

  • Arkeygeezer

    Obamacare may not have succeeded as promised, but it does provide a foundation for a national health system. Providing such a system is a legitimate function of our national government. Spending money on a national health system is preferable to spending money on wars with foreign countries to spread American ideology.

    That being said, our national health system needs a lot of work to make it viable. The system that has worked the best in the U.S. is Medicare. Medicare is a system that has government and private enterprise in partnership to provide excellent healthcare for seniors, and has extended life expectancy in the U.S. by many years. It is politically popular with seniors because it does a good job.

    Some form of national health system is here to stay. No political party will do itself any good by promising to repeal it en total. Politicians would do well to work toward making national health care a viable system that emulates Medicare.

    • stanbrown

      Despite all the lies to the contrary, America already had the best medical care in the world before Obamacare. All Obamacare has done is cost millions of jobs and wrecked the economy’s chance to grow.

      • Arkeygeezer

        I agree, but the American people want to make it better and more accessible to more people.

        Before ACA, health insurance was mostly provided by employers. If you lost your job, you lost your health insurance. If you took out a private policy you could lose the insurance at any time or pay more costly premiums. You could not get insurance if you had certain pre-existing conditions. Also the medical system was disjointed with patient records confined to one doctor. The ACA forced changes in all of these situations.

        I am a participant in Medicare Advantage through a major insurance provider and it costs me under $300 per mo for health care and drugs. I am alive today because of preventative medical I have received funded by Medicare.

        I do not think that the government should be a single payer of all medical bills. It should be a joint effort between private companies and the government. The government should never be in the position to dictate who gets care and who doesn’t

        There is a lot of money currently being spent on Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups, F-35 fighters, and senseless government programs that do not work, that could be spent on healthcare for all citizens.

        We need to have our politicians work on this for the good of the American People.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service