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Friday, December 9, 2016

So it turns out that millions of people dealt with the Affordable Care Act enrollment cutoff pretty much the way they habitually deal with the April 15 income tax filing deadline: procrastinating until the last minute to insure maximum stress and standing in line. Like mobbing shopping malls on the day after Thanksgiving, it’s the American way of life.

One result was predictably negative headlines like this classic in The Washington Post: “HealthCare.gov tumbles on deadline day as consumers race to sign up for insurance.” Because as we all know, temporary computer glitches—which never happen in the flawlessly efficient corporate sector, of course—are the big story here.

In the news business, this is called “burying the lede.” It’s the equivalent of a sports story headlined “Third inning errors mar Red Sox World Series win.” Because the real news, sports fans, is that Obamacare has met and even surpassed every enrollment projection. Oddly, millions of last-minute shoppers decided they’d be better off with health insurance after all.

Who could have guessed?

At this writing, it appears that the late buying surge will carry Obamacare beyond the 7 million enrollments projected by the Congressional Budget Office. Too bad, because that quite ruins the visual effect of a comically misleading Fox News bar graph that contrived to make the 6 million citizens enrolled as of last week appear to be a small fraction of the 7 million CBO projection, rather than 84 percent of it. An alert basset hound wouldn’t have been fooled. Do they think viewers are morons?

But more about what Ed Kilgore calls “Obamacare denialism” to come. According to a Rand Corporation study reported in the Los Angeles Times, along with the 7 million newly enrolled in private insurance plans, roughly 4.5 million previously uninsured Americans have enrolled in Medicaid since the new law came online last November. Another 3 million young adults gained coverage through their parents’ insurance plans, as Obamacare allows.

Rand estimates that another 9 million Americans have bought directly from insurance companies, although many of those were previously insured. Overall, the uninsured rate has dropped from an estimated 20.9 percent to 16.6 percent in the law’s first year—hardly the sudden revolution in American health care some dreamed of, but a creditable start.

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