Last month marked the sixth anniversary of the passage of the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA). The goal for this legislation was to insure more Americans and bend the cost curve in health care inflation. Thus far, this 2010 health care reform law has met many of it’s goals despite bitter opposition and at times, outright sabotage from the GOP.
At the time the ACA was passed, the Republicans prognosticated disaster for the U.S. John Boehner predicted that the ACA would cause “Armageddon” and “ruin our country.” The GOP House leader’s apocalyptic prediction was a mainstream position within the GOP at the time the law passed. His statement was not some isolated incident.
Three years later, then candidate Ben Sasse predicted that the implementation of the ACA would cause “America to cease to exist.” Some quibble over his statement and contend that what Sasse really meant was that the ACA would change America for the worse. However, Sasse said what he meant and meant what he said. Moreover, this kind of prediction of doom about the consequences of the ACA was shared by about every prominent Republican at the time.
As readers of this space know, Boehner and Sasse’s predictions were simply ludicrous. Since the passage of the ACA, the economy has created more jobs every month. The U.S. has now had 73 consecutive months of job growth. The unemployment rate has been reduced from 10% to 5%. Just about all of the jobs created in this recovery have been full time jobs. The labor participation rate is currently at a two year high.
Most importantly, median family household income is finally rising after sixteen years of decline and stagnation. According to Sentier Research, median family household income is now higher than it was at the onset of the recession in 2007. “We have recaptured all of the income losses that have occurred since the beginning of the last recession in December 2007,” said Sentier’s Gordon Green, a former U.S. Census Bureau official. And incomes are now up 0.4% from where they stood in January 2000.
The Republicans didn’t only make the general prediction that the ACA would cause an economic Depression – they also made a series of specific predictions about how the ACA would be a failure. Let’s now take a trip down memory lane and review some of those GOP predictions:
– There would be death panels. Former Alaska Governor and right wing entertainer Sarah Palin alleged that her special needs son would be hauled in front of a so-called death panel and she would have to plead for medical care for her son.
– The ACA website will never work.
– Nobody will want to buy insurance from the exchanges.
– The ACA wouldn’t meet it’s enrollment goals.
– Only people who already have insurance will want to sign up.
– The ACA would cause a net loss of insurance.
– The Democrats would join the Republicans in repealing the ACA before the 2014 elections.
– Insurance premiums will “skyrocket.”
– The private health insurance industry would be gone.
I think we can safely say that everyone of these specific predictions about the future of the ACA made by the Republicans were not just wrong but spectacularly wrong. The Republicans should be embarrassed.
There never were any death panels. It was named as the “Lie of the Year” in 2009 by the well respected and non-partisan Politifact.com fact checking site. In the unlikely event anybody is ever hauled in front of the alleged death panel described by Sarah Palin, I pledge I will represent that person for free.
Many of the other silly GOP predictions can be rebutted by simply pointing out that the ACA has insured 20 million additional Americans. The uninsured rate in the U.S. has been reduced from 18% to an all time low of 9%. The uninsured rate would be even lower if Nebraska and nineteen other Red states didn’t foolishly reject the Medicaid expansion. What’s more, approximately 129 million people with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage or charged more as a result.
This dramatic reduction in the uninsured rate has been accomplished at a lower cost than was initially projected. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the ACA will cost 29% lower than expected. Moreover, the CBO has also projected that the ACA will reduce the deficit by $118 billion in 2025.
The ACA is also a factor in the encouraging trend of reduced health care spending. According to a study from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the growth in health care spending was 3.6% in 2013 — the lowest yearly increase since 1960.
The reduced growth in medical spending has also had the salutary effect of slowing the growth in health insurance premiums for consumers. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums have grown at a much slower rate since the passage of the ACA: “Premiums increased more slowly over the past five years than the preceding five years (26 percent vs. 34 percent) and well below the annual double-digit increases recorded in the late 1990s and early 2000s. ”
Obamacare hasn’t only saved the taxpayers and consumers money, it has also saved lives. In December 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that ACA programs to improve hospital safety had resulted in 50,000 fewer preventable deaths since 2010.
The Republicans’ response to the successes of the ACA has been muted in the 2016 cycle. Instead, the GOP’s Presidential candidates are focused on other issues such as immigration, the size of their “hands,” and the candidates’ wives. The current GOP primary fight is a freak show. What this should tell the voters is that expanding health care to more Americans simply isn’t a priority for the GOP.
The reality is that the GOP’s record on health care has been a disgrace over the last forty years. During the George W. Bush Administration, the GOP did nothing when 8 million Americans lost their health insurance policies. Since 2009, the GOP has promised over twenty times to introduce a consensus health care plan and hold an up or down vote on that GOP replacement plan. However, all the GOP members of Congress have done on health care is mindlessly vote to repeal Obamacare over fifty times.
The actions of the Republican Party since 2009 clearly indicate that their actual position is to repeal – but not replace – the ACA. The Republicans want to take away insurance from 20 million Americans and bring back the status quo that existed before 2010 when people could go broke if they got sick or injured.
As Democrats, we need to aggressively message the successes of the ACA. We’re not only proud of the ACA – we standing willing, ready and able to improve the 2010 health care law We also need to let the voters know that if the GOP wins the election, millions of them will lose their health insurance and access to their doctors.
We can’t count on the press to tell the voters about the improvements in the health care system since 2010 and the Republicans’ ridiculous predictions of doom. It is entirely up to us Democrats to get that message out and win this election. As Harry Truman said in 1948: “I will win this election and make these Republicans like it—don’t you forget that!”