On Tuesday, Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine surfaced what is arguably one of the more bizarre comments made about the Affordable Care Act of late. The comment is from Ed Haislmaier at the Heritage Foundation, who was talking about the 35 percent decline in the uninsured rate since 2014, when Obamacare's insurance expansion started.
"It's premature," Haislmaier told the Wall Street Journal, "to say it's ACA-related."
There's a lot of argument right now about whether Obamacare's insurance expansion is good, bad, or somewhere in between. This is a place where you can have a real policy argument: is it a good idea to commit billions of taxpayer dollars to getting more people health insurance?
Questions about whether Obamacare actually increased insured rates, though? Those pretty much fly in the face of all available data.
The evidence is pretty overwhelming at this point that Obamacare has driven down the uninsured rate — and that the decline in uninsured rates started right when the health law's new insurance programs started.
Data from Gallup, the Commonwealth Fund, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Urban Institute, RAND Corporation, and the Kaiser Family Foundation all have similar findings — namely, that millions more people have insurance than before Obamacare's insurance expansion.
Is it possible this is a freak coincidence — that America's uninsured rate just happened to plummet at the exact time a major insurance expansion was taking place? Or as Chait puts it, the cause "could be anything. Survey error. People being excited about Republicans winning the midterm. Sunspots. You never know."
Maybe we live in a world of election-excitement-induced insurance shopping. Or maybe, just maybe, we live in a plausible world in which the government poured billions of dollars into making health insurance more affordable — and that caused a few million Americans to decide to get on board.
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