They said it wouldn’t work.
They said no one wanted it.
They said it would destroy the economy.
They said it would create chaos in the healthcare industry and cause masses of people to lose their insurance.
They said no one would sign up for it; especially healthy and young people.
They even said it would lead to “death panels” deciding who will live or die under Obamacare.
Now, five years after the Affordable Care Act became law, the state of America’s health has drastically improved. And the most criticized and misrepresented government social program of the 21st century is well on its way to becoming one of the most successful, if not celebrated.
Nearly every myth, lie, and unwarranted criticism of the ACA has not only been disproved by the reality of the program, but in many cases shown to be almost entirely without merit.
As the White House has noted, the law has been a success across the board in reducing the rate of being uninsured among the elderly, low income and young. The Affordable Care Act allows states to expand eligibility for Medicaid, and 28 states and the District of Columbia have done so. Across all 50 states, there are now 11.2 million additional Americans enrolled in Medicaid.
Most significantly, the uninsured rate for non-elderly adults has dropped by 35 percent since October 2013.
In states that accepted Obamacare and expanded their Medicaid program for people with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, uninsured rates declined by 13 percentage points. That is nearly double the decline in states that refused to accept ACA money and expand the program.
In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder recently said more than 603,000 Michiganians have enrolled in the “Healthy Michigan Plan,” an expanded Medicaid program funded by the ACA. It provides health insurance to low-income working people for a minimal cost. The Detroit News noted that since it was launched on April 1, 2014, 100,000 more people than predicted for the two-year enrollment signed up for the program.
Besides making near-universal healthcare available to the poor and hardworking families of this country who could not afford it otherwise, there are other major benefits to the ACA. Prior to its passage, health insurance companies could deny you coverage or charge you more because of a health problem that you had prior to applying for insurance. Under the ACA, health insurance companies can’t refuse to cover you just because of your pre-existing condition and they can’t charge you more than someone who doesn’t have the problem.
This has meant as many as 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions are no longer at risk of being denied coverage. This includes the parents of more than 17.6 million children.
Of course such success hasn’t stopped critics of government-supported health care from spreading misinformation and attempting to scare people in spite of the evident reality of success; most Americans still remain ambivalent about the ACA. So much so, that every announced Republican candidate for president in 2016 has vowed to repeal the program.
But just as there were unrelenting critics of Medicaid and Medicare, so there will be with the ACA. In time, however, most rational people have come to realize that access to affordable healthcare is not only a good thing, but a fundamental right of any human. And in spite of all of its critics and detractors, Obamacare works — scare tactics and mythology notwithstanding.
Marge Robinson is president of SEIU Healthcare Michigan.