Yes, for a while, it was easy to express harsh skepticism about the Affordable Care Act, President Obamas wide-ranging health care reform program for the uninsured. The rollout in October was plagued by technical problems, which Republicans grabbed as a signal that the ACA was hopelessly flawed, a bad idea that would cause the federal deficit to explode.
But as of midnight, when the deadline for this years signup arrived, somewhere between six and seven million Americans had signed on through a federal health care exchange. Indications were, according to McClatchy news reports out of Washington, that more young, healthy people were moving toward the exchanges as the deadline neared. Theyre crucial to the success of the reform, as their participation will help keep premium increases under control.
The deficit has gone down. And many young people have, under the ACA, been kept on their parents insurance (they can be there until age 26). Sick children who previously were unable to be covered have become covered. Medicaid has been expanded in some states, though not, unfortunately, in North Carolina. Here Republicans saw to it that the state turned down an expansion that would have helped between 300,000 and 500,000 people and would have been paid for by the federal government. The state also declined to participate, as some others did, in setting up its own exchange, a fact that made it more difficult for North Carolinians to get insurance.
One young man interviewed in The News & Observer is the kind of person the ACA could help, if young people could see the wisdom in it, and could understand theyll get subsidies for premiums if their pay is low. But this fellow hadnt signed on despite having a $1,500 bill from Rex Hospital for emergency room treatment. Insurance would have turned his bill into a fraction of that. And those who dont sign on for coverage will have to pay a penalty.
The ACA is working, and working well, particularly considering all the roadblocks and speed bumps Republicans put in front of it. Millions of Americans, and in the future millions more, are going to have the protection of health insurance, something that can be a true blessing when a health crisis arrives without warning.