Obamacare: It's working!
Once left for dead, the president's signature legislation is hitting its goals. And it's changing the political calculus for November
By Tim Dickinson
April 9, 2014
No one would claim that the Affordable Care Act rollout has all gone according to plan. The troubles started in the summer of 2012, when the Supreme Court took an ax to one of the main pillars of Obamacare: expanding Medicaid to cover any American earning less than $16,000. The federal government, the court ruled, couldn't force the states to take funding to cover the working poor, leading nearly half of them to boycott the program out of partisan spite. Then, powerful GOP-governed states like Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania refused to set up their own insurance exchanges, foisting the responsibility onto the underfunded healthcare.gov – which failed catastrophically at launch. The Congressional Budget Office downsized its first-year private enrollment projection from 7 million to 6 million people – a bar even administration allies feared could be impossible to clear, leading House Speaker John Boehner to brand the president's signature legislation "a train wreck."
See six stories of Obamacare already making a difference
But then something extraordinary happened. That "wrecked" train pulled right into the station. Early. On March 27th, the administration announced that the federal and state exchanges had signed up more than 6 million Americans for insurance plans. Four days later, on the last night of open enrollment, that number jumped past the original goal of 7 million. And that didn't include as many as 9 million people who bypassed exchanges and bought policies directly from insurance companies. "It's been a winding road," says Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, "but Obamacare is actually working as expected." With support for the ACA growing – in the latest NPR poll, 54 percent either approve of the law or want it to go further – the reality is dawning on the GOP that the law could still prove a wedge issue this fall, against its own electoral interests. "The Republican focus on Obamacare is backfiring," says Stanley Greenberg, a top Democratic pollster, who conducted the survey with a GOP counterpart. "They're on the wrong side of the issue."
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