Surveys show Obamacare is helping uninsured Americans

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Obamacare seems to be really helping uninsured Americans.

Surveys continue to show that the number of uninsured citizens is dropping since enrollment began last fall. Not every survey matches, but the general trend is undeniable to health care experts: millions of people without insurance before the Affordable Care Act have acquired insurance since last fall.

Obamacare not only covers people with existing health coverage, notes David Nather of POLITICO, but it adds new people to the numbers of insured — the point of the law from the beginning.

Because the surveys’ numbers vary, it is difficult for health care experts to confidently put an exact number on those covered. Nevertheless, even those who believed the ACA was a bad idea admit that the evidence shows it helps the uninsured.

Compared to the dire predictions about the law and its glitch-plagued launch, it is something of a vindication for President Obama and ACA supporters.

“It will be better when we’ve got a whole year behind us, so we can tell how much [in the surveys] was noise and how much was reality,” according to Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum, a conservative group that was one of the law’s most vocal critics. “Having said that, it sure looks like there are more people covered, and that’s a good thing.”

A Commonwealth Fund survey found that 9.5 million fewer adults are now uninsured, compared to the beginning of the enrollment period. A similar drop was observed by the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey. It showed 8 million adults obtaining coverage.

Another survey — from Gallup-Healthways — discovered that the adult uninsured rate fell to 13.4 percent, the lowest level since 2008, when the group began tracking the number.

Other Gallup series consistently found the same trend, writes Nather, and an April RAND survey estimated extended health coverage for as many as 9.3 million Americans.

That does not mean the battle over the health care law is over. Republicans argue that it is not about whether the law helps uninsured people; it is unintended side effects, like canceled health plans, greater premiums for those with individual health insurance, shortened work hours for part-time workers and long-term costs.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the leader of the battle to defund the ACA last fall, insists surveys will not change the debate. The real issue, says the Texas Republican, remains the disruption of higher premiums and canceled plans.

“Four years ago, before the law was implemented, it was possible to have good-faith disagreements about whether the law would work,” Cruz told POLITICO last week. “Today, seeing the utter disaster that has played out … to me, it is the essence of pragmatism to realize that the law isn’t working, and to repeal it and start over.”

Although things have stabilized since the botched rollout last fall, those side effects could crop up again — such as premium increases in the next year (so far they have been modest). In addition, another potential round of canceled plans and angry customers could happen next year, particularly those who received large subsidies and will need to pay them back.

“The Republican argument was never that a trillion or two dollars would never cover any more uninsured. It was that the cost of doing so in higher health care costs and premiums, canceled policies, increased government control of health care, and a myriad other negatives—were not worth it,” according to GOP pollster Whit Ayres. “That argument still holds.”

However, the new surveys are a morale boost for the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, armed with statistics to prove the ACA does exactly what it means to do: help uninsured Americans.

A Commonwealth Fund survey suggests most people who have signed up for Obamacare are happy with the coverage — and are not the disgruntled people that liked the previous insurance coverage better.

Fifty-eight percent of the Obamacare customers say they are better off under their new health plans; only 9 percent say they are worse off than before. Even with people with previous health insurance plans — those likely to resent having to switch — 52 percent say they like the new coverage, and 16 percent say they are worse off.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.