More than four months since its disastrous launch, Obamacare has finally found its mojo — at least based on enrollment statistics released by the administration. Those figures show that nearly 3.3 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance plans since October and that enrollment grew rapidly in January.
There are still glitches with the system, and the mix of enrollees remains a concern, but these new statistics show conclusively that there is a ready market for the private plans offered on government-run online marketplaces. Simply put, millions of Americans need health insurance, and they are finding affordable plans on the exchanges. The Obama administration is pushing the exchanges with high-profile advertising during the Winter Olympics.
The online exchanges are the most visible aspect of the Affordable Care Act; it’s where Americans who can’t get coverage through their jobs can find a selection of plans. Lower-income workers can qualify for subsidies to help them pay for the policies. The exchanges opened Oct. 1 and were so glitchy for weeks that few people could enroll. The Congressional Budget Office originally had expected 7 million people would enroll in the first year of Obamacare, but the nonpartisan agency now expects that number to be only 6 million. The problems on the exchanges were an embarrassment for President Barack Obama, who pledged to fix them.
One big concern is the makeup of the pool of insured on the exchanges. Younger and healthier enrollees are needed to keep premiums affordable. The number of young adults enrolling still is lagging, but it grew in the most recent month — a good sign. The rate of sign-ups among young people grew 65 percent in January, outpacing other groups. During the month, 27 percent of those signing up were younger. The administration had hoped that about 40 percent would be younger, but that number is likely to keep growing as the March 31 open enrollment window draws near.
The health care law continues to face fierce opposition from those who argue disingenuously that it is somehow a government takeover of the health care system and that it will kill jobs. They are wrong on both counts.
Here’s what it is: It’s private insurance for sale on a government-run exchange, an idea based on a conservative alternative to Hillary Clinton’s health care plan in the 1990s. Such objections will continue to lose resonance as more Americans take advantage of the policies available on the exchanges.
As for the ACA being a job killer? Wrong. A recent CBO report said that cumulative job growth over the next three to 10 years could be 2 million to 2.5 million lower because of the law. The reason is that some people who can now get insurance through the exchanges will decide not to work and that because subsidies fall as incomes rise, there will be a small disincentive to find a better-paying job or to work more hours. These are not large effects — and not necessarily bad ones in any case. One example: a worker approaching retirement who is afraid to reduce his workload because he isn’t eligible for Medicare. That worker now will be able to do so.
Obamacare has had its problems, but the latest statistics show that despite the histrionics from opponents, more and more Americans are embracing the law. That’s not good news for its opponents, but it is good news for everyone else.
— From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel