One year ago today seeking a slightly trolly, slightly clickbaity way to get people to read a new Slate column, I issued a tweet that would live in infamy:
Laying down the marker—Obamacare implementation’s going to be great and people will love it: http://t.co/itm6J3BixD— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 17, 2013
In the intervening year, conservatives have flung that remark back in my face many times. Every time a regulation was delayed, I heard about it again. And during the infamous autumn of 2013 when it seemed HealthCare.gov couldn't work I heard about it a lot. And that's no surprise. What's odd, though, is that I'm still seeing mocking references to it in the conservosphere even though I was … pretty much right.
Anyone who actually clicked through to the column and read it (which, I know, nobody does) would see that the actual argument of the piece was a prediction that my positive prediction would look bad.
The media, I explained, was overwhelmingly likely to overemphasize the negative. Not because of any particular political bias but simply because that's how the media works. Something bad happening is a story. Some poor people getting an insurance plan and going to see a doctor is not a story. I warned people to expect lots of accurate, negative stories that painted an overall negative picture even though the underlying reality would be pretty great. And now the facts are in.
The baseline reality is that the Affordable Care Act is succeeding in cutting the uninsurance rate. What's more, the number of insurers who want to offer plans through the insurance exchanges is growing. And the ACA is costing less than the Congressional Budget Office originally projected. Not only did the CBO overestimate the cost of providing insurance, but it underestimated how many people would sign up in the first year — we got 8 million rather than 7 million.
None of this proves that the Affordable Care Act is a good law or that conservatives should love it.
But it does prove that the Affordable Care Act is working just fine. When an initiative comes in ahead of schedule and below-cost, that's called working. And the people on the new Obamacare plans are using them and they like them.
Game, set, and match.
Now none of this means that conservatives should like the law. ObamaCare works, in large part, because it provides generous subsidies to people in the bottom third of the income distribution. And it obtains the funds to finance those subsidies largely through taxes on high-income families. Opposition to that kind of wealth redistribution is a core principle of contemporary conservative politics, so of course conservatives don't like a program that's built around it. But conservatives also know that relatively few people share their antipathy to taxing the rich. So for political purposes, if nothing else, it's superior to argue that some given liberal tax-and-spend scheme won't work rather than saying you oppose it whether or not it works.
And yet the reality, inconvenient though it may be for the right, is that Obamacare implementation has gone just fine and people like it.