by Caroline Rayburn and Stephanie Vogel –
Last week, AMAC monitored a short webinar hosted by Bloomberg Government to gain a better understanding of the numbers surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – known more commonly as “ObamaCare.” These numbers – particularly the 8 million enrollee figure – have been the face of ObamaCare’s so-called “success” since they were unveiled earlier this month. President Obama continues to champion these numbers as a resounding victory on behalf of the law and as definitive proof that ObamaCare is “working.” Through its webinar, Bloomberg Government was able to put these numbers into perspective for the many Americans who remain concerned that the numbers don’t tell the entire story.
Bloomberg Government is a web-based information service that analyzes government policy, reports on current legislation and provides directories and analytical tools for those who work closely with the Federal government.
Senior health care analysts at Bloomberg discussed the numbers released by the White House that have been regularly dissected by conservative lawmakers and the media, vigorously defended by supporters of ObamaCare and largely ignored by vulnerable Senate Democrats facing tough reelections this November. At face value, the numbers really are impressive – especially considering the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov, the Federal government’s health exchange website.
However, a number of recent national polls indicate that most Americans aren’t as enthusiastic with the numbers as the White House appears to be. Where the rubber meets the road, average Americans are still concerned that ObamaCare may not be such a good thing after all. They’re concerned about losing their trusted physicians. They’re concerned that their premiums will go up. They’re concerned that ObamaCare will be a financial burden on their children and grandchildren tomorrow.
Clearly, there’s a lot more to the 8 million enrollee figure than meets the eye. Critics of the ACA continue to ask a number of important questions in order to assess the true value of the law: How many of the enrollees were previously uninsured? How many of these enrollees lost their insurance because of ObamaCare? How many people are satisfied with their new insurance? Are people being forced to pay higher premiums for coverage they may not want or need? How many people have even paid their premiums? The answers to these questions will paint a more accurate picture of the effectiveness of the law, but unfortunately, these answers will only come in time. For now, Americans must look at these numbers in their proper context as the direct result of a newly instated government mandate.
The preliminary analysis Bloomberg provided was centered on predictions made by the Urban Institute and the RAND Corporation according to the demographic of enrollees, as well as CBO’s projections for the 10-year cost of the ACA. The Urban Institute estimates that the number of uninsured adults aged 18-64 fell by 5.4 million between September 2013 and March 2014. Moreover, RAND estimates that the actual number of people enrolled in ACA health plans is closer to 9.3 million as opposed to the 8 million figure put forth by the White House. Additionally, CBO projects that the 10-year cost of the law has dropped 7% — to a cost of $104 billion – from estimates made two months ago.
While these numbers look positive on paper, Bloomberg indicates that they may be optimistic estimates as opposed to realistic ones. Many of the questions surrounding ObamaCare and the enrollee numbers have yet to be addressed – let alone fully answered or satisfactorily settled. And despite claims that 8 million individuals now have health insurance thanks to ObamaCare, national polls continue to show that the majority of Americans remain opposed to the president’s signature legislative achievement. According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll, just 44% of Americans support the ACA, and 58% say the law is causing the overall cost of health care to increase.
The webinar also provided more than just analysis, citing a couple of key facts to keep in mind as implementation of the ACA moves forward. First, the Obama Administration has done a poor job in overseeing the implementation of its own health care law, contributing in part to the backlash against the law. While the worst of the website snafus may be behind us (hopefully), some of the biggest challenges for the law will occur during the coming year. Insurance companies will be putting in their requests for 2015 premiums soon, and many consumers could be facing double-digit premium increases. The first wave of ObamaCare enrollees could be paying significant out-of-pocket costs when they see a doctor, according to Bloomberg. Increased premium prices could have an adverse impact on the 2015 open enrollment period, possibly discouraging some consumers to buy expensive plans when they could pay the penalty for not enrolling. This ultimately begs the question of if first-year enrollees will choose to retain their health insurance through the ObamaCare exchanges next year and beyond.
Still, the White House continues to press forward with ObamaCare as if it’s working as intended – frightening news for many Americans who have suffered as a result of the law. Americans continue to wait to see what direction the health care debate will take next, which will most likely be determined by the upcoming 2014 midterm elections. Regardless of what President Obama has communicated to the press and the public, the debate over health care is far from over. ObamaCare will continue to be studied and contested in the coming days and months, given the serious implications it has for the lives of millions of Americans. AMAC will continue to monitor ObamaCare as new information surfaces and to keep our members informed of how ObamaCare stands to affect mature Americans and seniors.
 Balz, Dan and Peyton M. Craighill. “Post-ABC News Poll Shows Democrats at Risk in November as Obama’s Approval Rating Falls.” The Washington Post. Apr. 29, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/post-abc-news-poll-shows-democrats-at-risk-in-november-as-obamas-approval-rating-falls/2014/04/28/2a448b04-cf07-11e3-b812-0c92213941f4_story.html