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Older man in factory, putting box on shelf.
Finally there's some good news for America's near-retirees, hit disproportionately by lay-offs during the great recession and left without decent job prospects. They're also the people who are getting hit by the health issues of middle-age, a reality that has bankrupted millions of Americans. And they're the population benefiting most from Obamacare in this early stage.
Americans ages 55 to 64 make up 31 percent of new enrollees in the new health insurance marketplaces, the largest segment by age group, according to the federal government's latest figures. They represent a glimmer of success for President Barack Obama's beleaguered law.

The Great Recession hit them hard and for some its impact has lingered.

Aging boomers are more likely to be in debt as they enter retirement than were previous generations, with many having purchased more expensive homes with smaller down payments, said economist Olivia Mitchell of University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. One in five has unpaid medical bills and 17 percent are underwater with their home values. Fourteen percent are uninsured.

As of December, 46 percent of older jobseekers were among the long-term unemployed compared with less than 25 percent before the recession.

The new law is a lifeline to these people, a lifeline that could have come from expanded Medicare. Congressional Democrats had that goal within reach, until the skunk at everyone's picnic—Sen. Joe Lieberman—reversed his longstanding support of the proposal and single-handedly nixed that deal. But affordable health insurance is the next best thing, and at least Lieberman couldn't kill that hope.

This is precisely one of the primary goals of this health insurance reform: To save people from financial disaster because of health care costs. It's working just like it was supposed to, and that's one more thing for Republicans to have to worry about in the near political future. This is an age group Mitt Romney narrowly won in 2012, but could very well change their minds, and their votes, in 2014 and 2016 in gratitude.

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Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 08:08 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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