Progress Check on the Affordable Care Act Is Inconclusive

With its computer glitches fixed, the Affordable Care Act’s first numbers are coming in. From the time it’s rolled out in the beginning of October until the first of February, 3.3 million have signed up, with the daily amounts increasing. Though enrollment is up, it’s still to early to declare definite success or failure.

Despite the fact that more and more are signing up, the number of participants is expected to fall short of the projections. When the ACA first rolled out in October, it was riddled with computer bugs and glitches that impeded citizens from signing up. Also, according to the a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from last month, only a quarter of uninsured people knew that the ACA has a deadline to sign up for coverage and avoid penalties, which is on March 31st.

Republican opposition couldn’t have helped either. Americans for Prosperity ran an anti-Obamacare ad that used actors with fabricated accounts of their health care woes. The group’s representative said to ABC News when asked about it, “I think the viewing public is savvy enough to distinguish between someone giving a personal story and something that is emblematic.” However, most of the horror stories touted in the news have been debunked. For example, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers cited “Bette in Spokane” during the Republican’s State of the Union response. Bette’s insurance premiums, she claimed, had gone up $700 per month. Reporters tracked Bette down, and found that she could have gotten much more affordable coverage under the ACA. She told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that she hadn’t opted for this better plan because “I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all.”

However, as mentioned before, enrollment is up and now that the ACA has been on the market for a few months, reactions are mixed. More than half of Americans thinks that the law should either be kept or at least improved, and less than a third of people want it repealed, according to the same Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Expectations of its impact are also mixed. Speaking on how exactly the expanded coverage will affect insurance premiums in the next couple years, Tom Gilsdorf of Nebraska’s Blue Cross Blue Shield said, “It will probably take a couple years for the dust to settle on all of this.”

If the ACA is successful, it’ll certainly change health care and health insurance. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the estimated number to receive insurance in new marketplaces will be 7 million. They also estimate that the number of uninsured people by 2020 will only be 30 million, down from the current estimate of 45 million.

There will also be ancillary effects as well. As the Washington Post reports, the number of urgent care facilities since 2008 has grown from 8,000 to over 9,300. Since more uninsured people get the coverage they need, the amount of health care facilities such as urgent care centers will surely increase as well.

As there’s less than a month until the ACA’s deadline, President Obama made a surprise appearance Tuesday on the online mock talk show, Between Two Ferns to encourage the young demographic that watches it to sign up for coverage. As the show’s host site, Funny or Die, gets 4 million unique visitors per month, much of whom are in the coveted demographic of 18 to 35, it serves as the perfect platform to lobby the ACA.

Whether or not the stunt is successful will be seen at the end of month, as the final uninsured persons sign up for coverage. Though it’s still too early to declare success, and though it had a rocky start, the ACA is poised to have dramatic, long-standing effects.


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