When the Affordable Care Act and its insurance plans made their disastrous debut on the Internet nearly two years ago, the last thing journalists might’ve expected was an offer from President Obama’s health-care secretary to drop by the newsroom for an in-person briefing on how things were going.
But memories of the massive 2013 crash of the healthcare.gov website are fading, and the legislation known as “Obamacare” is settling into the fabric of the nation’s health-care system.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. People still complain about how hard it is to navigate the dense bureaucracy, especially when trying to fix errors. But it’s generally working as intended.
More people are insured, and insurers can no longer turn away those with costly medical conditions. Contrary to what doomsayers predicted, employers kept hiring despite the new insurance requirements. They reported only modest growth in insurance premiums last year.
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A recent Gallup poll found that while half of all Americans still disapprove of the 2010 law, the percentage of those who approve (44 percent) is rising. The gap is the smallest since October 2013.
A Kaiser poll found that we might have even hit the tipping point, with 43 percent of people reporting a favorable view of the legislation, compared to 42 percent unfavorable – the first time the positive view had taken the lead in that poll since late 2012.
So it wasn’t a surprise when U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell sought to drop in on the editorial board last week while in town to announce new money for a community health center.
She seemed less interested in touting past successes than in looking ahead toward improvements in the affordability and quality of care, as well as access to it. The federal government, she said, sees its role as helping set the pace for such improvements.
North Carolina, of course, is hobbled to some extent by the legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Gov. Pat McCrory has voiced tentative interest in the possibility of a North Carolina-specific expansion plan, but hasn’t put any such plan forward.
About 377,000 North Carolinians would gain coverage if legislators in Raleigh would begin to accept that perhaps, just perhaps, they are as wrong on Medicaid expansion as they were on the Affordable Care Act.
But that doesn’t seem likely. McCrory has said he’s waiting on the Supreme Court’s expected ruling on the subsidies that drive the Affordable Care Act.
About 560,000 people in North Carolina got coverage this year through the federal marketplace – 92 percent with subsidies. Burwell said she remains confident the subsidies will survive. With all those North Carolinians depending on them, let’s pray she’s right.