The latest on Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect and hasn’t nearly solved all the problems with U.S. healthcare, but so far it’s accomplished a lot to make things better.

Most notably, the number of uninsured Americans is far lower than it used to be. As Simon Maloy’s article posted yesterday at Salon points out, during the first 9 months of 2015, 16 million fewer people were uninsured than two years previously. Among the poor and near-poor, the uninsured rate dropped from over 40 percent to about 25 percent. The improvement was even greater for children in low-income families. (These numbers would be even better if not for state governments that for ideological reasons refused the Medicaid expansion, despite the fact that it would have helped their finances as well as providing medical care to those in need.)

Furthermore, contrary to the rote talking points cited by some politicians, the ACA has very little negative impact on employment. In fact, some businesses initially did reduce hours for many workers so they could be classified as part-time and not eligible for employer-provided health insurance. But this proved to be a bad idea. For one thing it required hiring more total workers, and at the same time by making the jobs less attractive it made it harder to recruit the most productive employees.

In a post last week, Drum pointed out that the Affordable Care Act has cut the number of uninsured Americans form about 19 percent to about 10 percent, a massive change in the right direction. Not only does it enable more people to get the medical care they need, it also makes it more likely that doctors and hospitals will get paid.

Of course, as mentioned in December, not everything is rosy. Premiums and deductibles are too high for many people, and too many have a limited network of providers. These are solvable problems if and when the Republicans in Congress stop trying to repeal the Act and do their part to improve it.

(Updated 2016 February 23 to delete a redundant reference to a blog post by Kevin Drum.)

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