Terrance Heath

For Obamacare, Nothing Succeeds Like Success

Filed By Terrance Heath | November 29, 2013 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: health care, House of Representatives, House Republicans, Obamacare

Universal health care

A new poll shows that, despite a flawed rollout, most Americans are willing to give health care reform time to succeed. That’s good news for Obamacare, because it’s already succeeding in states that have fully adopted it. And the success stories are starting to spread.

Americans Are Optimistic About Obamacare

A new CNN/ORC International poll shows that, despite a rocky start, a majority of Americans still have an open mind about whether Obamacare will work, and more than half are optimistic that current problems with the health care reform rollout can be solved.

According to the poll, 58 percent of Americans oppose the law, while four in ten support it. But there’s little here for Republican opponents of health care reform to crow about. These numbers alone don’t tell the whole story about where Americans stand on health care reform.

When the numbers on support and opposition are broken down, the poll reveals that just 41 percent of Americans oppose the law because they believe it’s too liberal. Meanwhile, the other 14 percent say the health care reform law doesn’t go far enough. That means that 54% of Americans either support Obamacare, or believe it’s not liberal enough.

Despite Republicans like Chris Christie calling it a “train wreck,” the majority of Americans are optimistic that problems with Obamacare will eventually be solved. Not quite four in ten Americans are willing to call it a failure, while 53% say it’s too soon to tell. But 54 percent — the same percentage of Americans who either support Obamacare or say it doesn’t go far enough — believe that the initial problems with Obamacare will be solved.

Republican efforts to poison younger Americans against Obamacare, appear to have failed. Obamacare optimism runs even higher among younger Americans. According to the poll, only 25 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 say the new law is a failure, compared to 40 percent in all other age brackets. Seven in ten young Americans believe the current problems will eventually be solved.

Nothing Succeeds Like Success

This bodes well for health care reform. “Nothing succeeds like success,” the saying goes, and health care reform is already succeeding for Americans in states that have fully adopted it — Medicaid expansion, and all. Those successes will multiply, and Americans’ optimism about health care reform will rise.

It’s just a matter of time. Stories about problems with Obamacare’s launch will fade away as those problems are ironed out. Americans will hear more about health care reform’s success stories, and experience their own successes with Obamacare.

It’s already starting. This week the Los Angeles Timesran the story of one California couple who probably would have been denied health insurance  before health care reform, but now have coverage thanks to Obamacare.

Last summer Ellen Holzman and Meredith Vezina, a married gay couple in San Diego County, got kicked off their long-term Kaiser health plan, for which they’d been paying more than $1,300 a month. The cause wasn’t the Affordable Care Act, as far as they knew. They’d been living outside Kaiser’s service area, and the health plan had decided to tighten its rules.

That’s when they discovered the chilly hazards of dependence on the individual health insurance market. When they applied for a replacement policy with Anthem Blue Cross of California, Ellen, 59, disclosed that she might have carpal tunnel syndrome. She wasn’t sure–her condition was still being diagnosed by Kaiser when her coverage ended. But the possibility was enough to scare Anthem. “They said, ‘We will not insure you because you have a pre-existing condition,’” Holzman recalls.

But they were lucky, thanks to Obamacare. Through Covered California, the state’s individual insurance marketplace, they’ve found a plan through Sharp Healthcare that will cover them both for a total premium of $142 a month, after a government subsidy based on their income. They’ll have a higher deductible than Kaiser’s but lower co-pays. But their possible savings will be impressive.

More important than that was knowing that they couldn’t be turned down for coverage come Jan. 1. “We felt we didn’t have to panic, or worry,” Holzman says. “If not for the Affordable Care Act, our ability to get insurance would be very limited, if we could get it at all.”Holzman and Vezina, the article goes on to say, are exactly the type of people health care reform was designed to help. They aren’t the only ones. The Times article includes the stories of other families who either lacked coverage or payed high premiums for “bare-bones” coverage, and found better, more affordable coverage through Obamacare.

Not all of the people in the Times article were happy with the application process, which Holzman called “definitely clunky,” but all of them were happy with the end result. Holzman, Vezina, and the others are fortunate to live in a state that has embraced health care reform.

California is one of Obamacare’s big success stories. The state is making the new system work for 38 million Californians. With more than 10,000 applications being completed per day, California is well on track to meet its goals for coverage by 2014.

Then there’s Kentucky. Kentucky loves Obamacare, even it doesn’t quite know it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY) may say that health care reform is “unsalvageable,” but Kentucky’s Obamacare rollout is another success story. The Washington Post reports that Obamacare sign ups are booming in one Kentucky county, which it calls “one of the poorest and unhealthiest in the country.”

Places such as Breathitt County, in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky, are driving the state’s relatively high enrollment figures, which are helping to drive national enrollment figures as the federal health exchange has floundered. In a state where 15 percent of the population, about 640,000 people, are uninsured, 56,422 have signed up for new health-care coverage, with 45,622 of them enrolled in Medicaid and the rest in private health plans, according to figures released by the governor’s office Friday.

If the health-care law is having a troubled rollout across the country, Kentucky — and Breathitt County in particular — shows what can happen in a place where things are working as the law’s supporters envisioned.As in California, Obamacare is working in Kentucky for precisely the people it was intended to help. In places like Breathitt County, with a per-capita income of about $15,000 per year, it’s working for Americans who were unable to afford private health insurance and were previously ineligible for Medicaid.

Health care reform is working as envisioned in Kentucky for two reasons. The state opted to set up its own health insurance exchange, and Gov. Steve Beshear (D) stood alone among Southern governors when he signed on to the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare. Kentuckians who apply for health insurance under the new law simply have to choose from a wide array of plans available either through the state’s exchange or its expanded Medicaid program.

If, as Republicans continue to claim, Obamacare “doesn’t work,” then it shouldn’t work anywhere. If it can work in states as different as California, then it can work anywhere.

Failing to Fail

Obamacare’s success in places like Breathitt County, Kentucky — which backed Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012, 66 percent to 31 percent — might even be minting new Democrats among its beneficiaries. That’s bad news for Republicans, because Obamacare is “failing to fail” as Republicans predicted, and the GOP doesn’t have an alternative that promises to be nearly as effective.

Last week, House Speaker John Boehner staged a dismal stunt. Boehner meant to make a big show of trying and failing to sign up for Obamacare, and even tweeted about it. In the end, Boehner “failed to fail” to sign up for Obamacare. Boehner confirmed his successful enrollment, less than an hour after blogging about his “frustrating” attempt. It turned out that a DC Exchange representative tried to contact Boehner by phone during that hour, was put on hold for 35 minutes by Boehner’s staff, and eventually hung up.

Despite the failure in his own office, John Boehner still successfully enrolled in Obamacare and could have gotten a great deal.  Contrary to Boehner’s claims that Obamacare drove his premiums up, it looks like the 64-year-old smoker, with a high stress job, and an income of about $223,500 a year could end up paying as little as $372 per month.

If Obamacare can succeed in states as diverse as California and Kentucky, and even work for a House speaker who can’t make his own caucus work, then it can succeed anywhere and for anyone if given a chance.

More and more Americans are giving it a chance every day, and every day health care reform is helping Americans who couldn’t afford coverage or weren’t eligible for Medicaid. Those success stories will give rise to more success stories, as more Americans are persuaded to give it a chance. Nothing, after all, succeeds like success.


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