Is The Affordable Care Act Working? That's The Question As Open Enrollment Approaches

The next open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act starts on November 15. Has the law worked so far? At this point, the answer for many is "yes."

The Affordable Care Act was slow out of the starting gate, thanks to major problems with the website. But, technical glitches aside, the law appears to be accomplishing many of the objectives that President Obama intended for it to achieve. The New York Times took an in depth look at a number of questions about the Affordable Care Act, and found that the law is largely beginning to improve access and affordability of care for the majority of enrollees.

  • The percentage of uninsured Americans has fallen drastically.
  • Insurance under the Affordable Care Act has been made affordable for many, but not for everyone.
  • Affordable Care Act coverage has improved health care outcomes for young people.
  • The health care industry has been helped by the law, which has provided more paying customers.

In short, the Affordable Care Act is largely doing what it was designed to do -- offer access to health care to more people. But there are still issues, such as Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion is a critical part of the law, as its purpose was to provide coverage for those who make too much money to qualify for traditional Medicaid, but who don't make enough money to be able to afford to purchase insurance on their own. Medicaid expansion is working in states that accepted it, but a number of states, mostly controlled by Republicans, refused to take part in the program.

Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion is being reconsidered by some states.

Twenty-three states did not accept the Medicaid expansion that came with the Affordable Care Act, even though the cost of the expansion was completely absorbed by the federal government. Some of those states are now reconsidering their decision.

Pennsylvania, for example, won approval from Washington to pay private insurers to offer health insurance to many who would qualify for the expansion. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in August that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of Pennsylvania's Medicaid expansion for the first three years, and no less than 90 percent after 2016. Some point out this compromise shows there is flexibility in the Affordable Care Act for states that choose to seek solutions they feel are best for their state. Others, who are staunchly opposed to the law, say that actions such as this are a sell out by conservatives.

According to Reuters, a Rand corporation study has found that by taking part in the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion, Pennsylvania could see as much as a $3 billion increase in economic activity along with 35,000 new jobs. This is a direct contradiction to the claims of conservatives that the Affordable Care Act would be a "job killer."

The changes in Medicaid expansion that Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett sought may be rendered moot after November's election. Corbett trails his Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf, by a wide margin. Wolf is in favor of Medicaid expansion, without restrictions. Politics may play a similar role in several other states, where the governor's seat is likely to flip from Republican to Democrat.

Even though some Republican governors are warming to the law, Republicans in Washington still oppose it. As previously reported in the Inquisitr, Republicans in congress may be considering another government shut down over funding for the Affordable Care Act. Given what happened with the last government shut down, that could be political suicide.

Is the Affordable Care Act affordable?

Dire predictions that the Affordable Care Act will cause premiums to skyrocket are being proven untrue. The accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 2015 premium increases for plans purchased on the various health care exchanges will be modest. As of October 3, the date of the report, the six states that had finalized rates for 2015 had an average increase in premium costs of 2.6 percent. The average premium increase across all states that provided information is 5.9 percent. A report by The Commonwealth Fund found that average premium increases in the individual market were as much as 10 percent or more in the three years just prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. So it appears that the law is accomplishing its goal of keeping health insurance premiums in line.

Smaller increases in premiums, subsidies to help purchase insurance, Medicaid expansion, removal of lifetime caps on benefits, elimination of "preexisting conditions" -- these are all accomplishments of the Affordable Care Act. Is the law perfect? No, but the Affordable Care Act seems to be largely living up to its name for most.

[Image via Forbes]