The Sunday New York Time's editorial page celebrated the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act by detailing some of its achievements, even ahead of its full implementation next year. That includes:
- Some 6.6 million people ages 19 through 25 who have been able to stay on their parents' insurance plans and more than than 3 million young adults getting health insurance.
- 17 million getting some kind of free preventive service, like flu shots, and 34 million Medicare recipients getting free preventive services in 2012;
- 17 million children with pre-existing conditions being protected against being uninsured;
- More than 107,000 adults with pre-existing conditions finally having insurance under the federally run insurance program;
- 21 million received care from expanded community health centers, 3 million more than previously served;
- $1.1 billion in rebates, an average of $151 per family paid by insurers that failed to meet the benchmark of 80 to 85 percent of premium revenues on medical claims or quality improvements;
- Since 2010, more than 6.3 million older or disabled people have saved more than $6.3 billion on prescription drugs;
Beyond that, as the editorial notes, the annual growth of health care expenses has declined sharply, both in private care and Medicare. But the focus on quality of care seems to be working. "The percentage of Medicare patients requiring readmission to the hospital within 30 days of discharge dropped from an average of 19 percent over the past five years to 17.8 percent in the last half of 2012." That's largely because Medicare can impose penalties now for poor performance, but can also pay incentives for quality care.
Not a bad track record for the first three years, before the meat of the reforms kick in. What's particularly important—and so far ignored by policy-makers—is the real slowdown in the growth of health care costs. It suggests that Medicare isn't a hair-on-fire emergency right now, and that any changes to it should be dealt with outside of deficit grand-bargaining. It's not an immediate crisis.