Donna Brazile: Obamacare is doing well
Please keep this quiet. I’m all for a more civil society, especially in Washington, and I don’t want to anger people. (Whisper) “Obamacare has succeeded.”
In April, we learned there were 8 million sign-ups on the online health care exchanges during open enrollment, far surpassing White House estimates. In addition, there were more than 3 million people newly enrolled on Medicaid and 3 million young adults on their parents’ health plans.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not yet publicly acknowledged this reality. After saying in a press conference that Congress should “pull (Obamacare) out root and branch and start over,” McConnell was asked specifically whether Kynect, the online Kentucky health exchange created and paid for under Obamacare, should be dismantled.
He responded: “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question.” McConnell knows Kynect and Obamacare are one and the same, and his attempts at isolating one from the other reveals the Republican predicament. If they repeal Obamacare, they take away the benefits of Obamacare — like Kynect, which has signed up 413,000 Kentuckians in health care plans.
Today we know the outcomes of health plans for people newly enrolled on Kynect and other exchanges. These results, like poet Carl Sandberg’s fog, came “on little cat feet.” It rolled in all at once, quietly, from several independent sources.
The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that “supports independent research on health care issues.”
A recent survey found that 78 percent of newly insured people are happy with their new plans. And (again, shhh!) 74 percent of newly insured Republicans are happy with theirs.
The New York Times, reporting the Commonwealth Fund’s findings, discovered: “Even 77 percent of people who had insurance before — including members of the much-publicized group whose plans got canceled last year — were happy with their new coverage.”
The purpose of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance. Gallup polling, after 45,000 interviews with adults over three months, finds the uninsured rate dropped to 13.7 percent from 17 percent at the end of 2013. A Gallup headline reads: “Uninsured Rate Continues to Drop Across Age Groups.”
The Commonwealth Fund’s survey found that more than half (54 percent) said their new plan included all or most of the doctors they wanted. Sixty percent of the newly insured said they had gone to a hospital or filled a prescription.
A majority of those (60 percent) said they could not have afforded their visit or prescriptions without their new plan.
Commonwealth’s takeaway: “Significantly fewer working-age adults are uninsured than just before the sign-up period began, and many have used their new coverage to obtain needed care.”
Well, yes. But. But ... what about the president usurping Congress’ power and taking action on his own? Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is suing the president for doing what the House wanted to do just last year — delaying the employer mandate. Boehner has called Obama’s actions “imperial” and other scary names.
The employer mandate is the part of Obamacare that requires employers with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance or face a penalty. Boehner himself, along with 229 Republicans, voted to delay the employer mandate this time last year. Boehner even wrote a letter to Obama that admitted the mandate “cannot be implemented within the current time frame.”
So why are they suing Obama? They say he hasn’t the power to postpone the employer mandate. White House lawyers defend this delay on the same legal authority President George W. Bush cited when taking similar executive actions. In fact, Bush’s former secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael O. Leavitt, called Obama’s decision “wise.”
Obama’s Treasury Department wanted “transition relief” to work with large businesses to ensure they had “time to adapt health coverage and reporting systems while ... moving toward making health coverage affordable and accessible for their employees.” Similar postponements happened during the phase-in of the 2004 Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit during Bush’s presidency.
It’s an open secret in Washington that Boehner hopes that by spending more taxpayer funds on a highly publicized lawsuit (his failed support of the Defense of the Marriage Act cost the taxpayer $2.3 million), he will convince fed-up Republicans to not vote Democratic. He can’t actually be concerned with the legal question because by the time the suit could even make it to the Supreme Court in 2016, the mandate will already be in place, rendering the lawsuit moot.
I’m sorry, but there’s more good news. Obamacare has killed no jobs. Just the opposite. The economy added 288,000 jobs last month, and unemployment plunged to 6.1 percent from a 2009 high of 10 percent. The health care industry itself has gained nearly 1 million jobs since Obamacare was passed.
All of this is strictly on the “hush-hush.” It has become politically “un-correct” to ever, in any way, attribute success to Obama, and especially to Obamacare. I’m a little scared to buck the trend. If we keep it quiet, maybe Republican leaders won’t jinx our national good fortune. Shhhhh.
Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News.