Yep, it was another pretty damned good week for Obamacare, if you don't count that whole
impending Supreme Court doom
part. Here's what we found out this week.
This one is particularly salient for a Supreme Court considering stripping subsidies away from millions of people: the uninsured rate dropped more than 30 percent from September 2013 to September 2014. The Urban Institute has been releasing quarterly data since the implementation of the law, and has found that the uninsured rate for adults under age 64 has been significantly lowered, across genders and races and age groups. But not economic groups—the working poor and the middle class saw the largest drops because of the combination of Medicaid expansion and federal tax credits, or subsidies, for the middle class. In other words, the law is doing exactly what it was intended to do. At least in the Medicaid expansion states.
Thanks in part to some of the Medicare provider reforms and incentives in the law, healthcare spending in the U.S. grew slower in 2013 than it had in 53 years. Half a century. Lowest healthcare spending growth. It's worth repeating that the shrinking of Medicare spending has already cut the deficit more than any of the austerity-minded plans that anyone has come up with—Simpson/Bowles, or Paul Ryan, or anyone else.
There's this, too: 50,000 lives saved because hospitals have been made safer. The law included both penalties and incentives for hospitals to reduce readmissions and thus to cut down on the incidence of things like patient falls, poor sanitation practices that increased hospital-based infections, or patients being given the wrong prescriptions. This is all critical in saving lives, but incidentally helped in that whole spending less money on health care part, particularly for Medicare.
Finally, the good folks at the Kaiser Family Foundation released the results of their research into state marketplaces. They found that premiums under Obamacare are being held largely in check for 2015 thanks to the fact that lots of insurers have decided to join in, and are creating competition. As the law intended. That doesn't mean that health insurance premiums aren't still too high for a lot of people, particularly people whose wages aren't keeping up with the growth in healthcare inflation, but it is helping.
What does all of this tell us? That our healthcare system can be made to work better and more efficiently and can save more lives. This is all under a complicated, cumbersome system that still maintains the profit incentive for insurance companies. Imagine what more could be accomplished if Republicans in Congress were to finally accept that it's the law and it's working and can be built upon? Ok, that's a pipe dream. But imagine what could be accomplished if Democrats realized that it's working and can be built upon and start campaigning on that right now for 2016?
The flip side, of course, is not hard to imagine because we've seen it. If the Supreme Court does indeed decide to gut the law by revoking subsidies for millions of people, then those millions will be where the millions who live in states that didn't expand Medicaid are: shit out of luck.
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