Last spring, at an event in Hancock, state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, a conservative Republican seeking to unseat Congresswoman Ann Kuster in the fall, sharply criticized her opponent for supporting the Affordable Care Act. Garcia fairly asked how an insurance marketplace with only one choice of company, Anthem, could be a marketplace. “Now we’re down to one,” Garcia said of marketplace participants. “What’s next, zero?”
The right answer, as Garcia and other critics of what’s popularly known as Obamacare would soon learn, is five, the number of insurers now signed up to offer an astounding 50 different plans to consumers in the fall.
The Affordable Care Act is working.
More than 11 million Americans, most of them previously uninsured, now have coverage under the act or the expanded Medicaid program. It’s good coverage that doesn’t limit benefits or exclude people with a pre-existing condition. Some 40,000 New Hampshire residents are now covered, and that number is expected to grow as competition on the exchange lowers prices.
People who did see an increase in cost over the price of their old, bare-bones policy got much better coverage for their money. The young can buy good policies that include no co-payments or deductibles for preventive care, for the price of a cell phone plan. When more people have insurance, everyone benefits. Cost shifting from the uninsured to those with coverage decreases. Unaffordable medical bills cause more than half of all personal bankruptcies in New Hampshire. Fewer occur when borrowers have good insurance, which means fewer businesses and their employees suffer.Thanks to tax credits and subsidies, many enrollees paid $50 per month or less for coverage. Silver plan purchasers – the popular middle tier, pay an average of $69 per month, a figure that was closer to $100 in New Hampshire, where health care costs are among the nation’s highest.
The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. It was the best outcome achievable at the time, and it will need constant improvement and greater participation.
The bugs have been worked out. Enrolling under the Affordable Care Act and shopping on the exchange now can take an hour or less.
Republican congressional candidates, among them Garcia, Scott Brown, Bob Smith and Jim Rubens, continue to demonize the Affordable Care Act and promise to repeal it if elected. The more voters learn about what the act can do for them, and to slow the rise in health care costs, the more they’ll want to know why.