Donna Brazile: Health care is working
“I have not had a physical in over 15 years,” Dionne Gilbert, 51, told The Associated Press. “I told myself, ‘You need to do this. Your daughter loves you and needs you.’”
Gilbert is what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is all about. For millions upon millions of uninsured Americans, health care has been beyond their reach. Now, according to the Los Angeles Times, 9.5 million previously uninsured Americans have coverage.
There was a huge last-day surge in sign-ups, helped along by President Obama selling health care as vigorously as his political opponents were working to make it fail. He succeeded.
Lisa Kerrigan, 25, who has two daughters and owns a day care and preschool business in Rochester, N.H., told National Public Radio, “I’ve never been able to afford health insurance before, and I was really, really hesitant going into it.”
“On a whim,” she attempted to sign up. Less than an hour later, she had her health insurance for $37 a month. “I have a $170 deductible, which is nothing. I have $5 copays and $10 prescriptions. It’s wonderful.”
Kerrigan is so satisfied that she agreed to let her story be told in online marketing by the state health exchange. The New Hampshire exchange saw more than 21,000 people sign up by February’s end, “significantly exceeding” the projections, says NPR.
Naysayers are postulating that people merely switched one health care policy for another. It’s true that health care in New Hampshire is expensive. It’s also true it is less costly on the state’s health care exchange. The name of the act is, after all, “affordable.”
Across the country, in Washington state, the state’s health exchange experienced significant success, garnering 20 percent of the nation’s sign-ups in the first month of open enrollment. Politico reports that the Washington health exchange signed up a half-million people by March 20.
On the last day, AP reported two-hour phone waits in my home state of Louisiana. In California, the overload reached such numbers that receptionists asked registrants to finish their applications past the deadline. In Tennessee, officials experienced more than double the calls of the previous Monday, from 800 to 1,900.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told Politico, “I think what we’ve learned is, once you get the software systems, hallelujah, it works.” Millions, despite an unending barrage of partisan opposition, discovered things to like, such as being able to keep their health care under ACA, even if they lose their job.
It is this feature that has prompted some to voluntarily quit their jobs because they no longer needed them to keep their health insurance. There is a decidedly bright side to citizens having the freedom to leave jobs they are chained to because otherwise they’d lose their health coverage. They’re free to start their own business, to look for a job they like better, to spend more time with family, says the Washington based Center for Economic and Policy Research. This is another key benefit of ACA: security.
Oh, and they can get better health care coverage, too.
Covered California, that state’s health exchange, signed up 1.2 million people, while Medi-Cal, insurance for low-income adults, signed up 1.5 million. California hired 250 additional call-center operators, yet was still overwhelmed with sign-ups.
The AP interviewed Allison Webb, 29, who hasn’t had insurance since 2005. She found a plan that will cost her about $60 a month. Michael Carradine’s mother roused him from his sleep and ordered him to sign up. The 20-year-old student registered within 45 minutes at a union-sponsored sign-up hall.
His subsidized plan will cost him $106 per month.
Polls have consistently found most people would prefer the act be kept and allowed a chance to work, and then adjusted as necessary. Repeal is not a reality —a fact Republican opposition leaders acknowledge in private.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Affordable Health Care Act’s “increased coverage so far amounts to substantial progress toward one of the law’s principal goals and is the most significant expansion since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.”
Additionally, the Affordable Care Act racked up a 49 percent positive score, “a first” according to ABC News, which commissioned the poll. That may not seem like much, but it beats all previous surveys that found consistently negative ratings. The president has repeatedly said, as people came to know the health care act, it would grow in popularity.
Numbers do not measure the ACA’s sign-up success. As a result of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — illnesses are prevented, people have greater security in their lives, more money in their pockets (because insurance companies can’t make a profit higher than 20 percent), and families have a parent or child with them because a disease was cured. These are the true measures of success. And that is priceless.
DONNA BRAZILE is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News.