GOP presidential candidates have vowed that upon “taking back” the White House, they’ll move first to repeal “Obamacare,” their nickname for the health coverage program made possible by the Affordable Care Act. The truth is that the ACA was overdue, and President Obama was brave to face up to the need to ensure health care for Americans though he knew it would bring on misleading criticism.
Criticism included predictions that people wouldn’t sign up; that the ACA would drive health care costs through the roof; that the federal deficit would explode under the weight of ACA’s costs; and that the expense of the reform would ruin a health care system touted as the world’s finest (though hardly its most accessible).
The answers, going by the latest report on the ACA from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office: No, no, no — and no. It’s true the ACA needs some tweaking and isn’t perfect in some ways. But it is not a failure.
Yes, the CBO found that its predictions of the cost of the ACA over the next 10 years will be higher, by 11 percent, than it predicted last year. But that’s largely because of the good news that enrollment is higher than expected, and the expanded Medicaid program under the ACA (the one North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers denied to 500,000 residents) is costing more because more people are covered.
Those are small consequences to pay — and according to the CBO, offset by the law’s benefits. Millions of Americans who were depending upon emergency rooms for basic care, for example, now have health insurance and access to preventative care that saves them illness and the health system money.
Some 22 million more people, says the CBO, will have health coverage this year than if there never had been an ACA. Some of them haven’t had care before; others moved to the ACA when their employers curtailed coverage; and others were working but eligible for Medicaid.
And though employer coverage has been diminishing because of rising costs, that was true before the ACA came along. Blaming that trend on “Obamacare” is just wrong, one of the desperate attempts on the part of Republicans to justify their promises of repealing the law.
Consider: If they repeal the ACA, 22 million people would lose health coverage overnight. Hospitals and doctors now benefiting from having more patients covered, including those on Medicaid, would lose billions of dollars in revenue. And GOP lawmakers would have to do their repeal based on fictions about an exploding deficit and a collapsing health care system.
Despite technical stumbles at the start, despite too many compromises with drug companies, despite changes demanded by congressional Republicans who threatened to stop the ACA cold with filibusters — despite all this, the ACA has worked.