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“This Law Is Working”: Today’s Report Signals A Turning Point For The Affordable Care Act


President Obama announced during a press briefing at the White House today that 8 million people have signed up for private health insurance via the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act since October, marking another positive indicator that the health care law is working as it was designed.

The new figures represent a turnaround from the fumbled rollout of the HealthCare.gov website last year. This is the latest in a string of good news for the White House, starting with the announcement that the Affordable Care Act exceeded its goal of 7 million sign-ups by the last day of enrollment. Less than a week later, data from a Gallup survey yielded more positive results: thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured Americans has dropped dramatically in recent months, reversing a trend of rising uninsured rates.

One of the most significant recent reports came from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). According to their findings, the cost of the health care law in 2014 will be $5 billion less than previously projected. President Obama references this report in his press briefing today, saying: “The [Congressional Budget Office] now says the Affordable Care Act will be cheaper than originally thought,” he said.

Importantly, most of the cost-savings are due to lower-than-expected insurance premiums, indicating that the Affordable Care Act is working towards one of its most vital — and elusive — goals: reducing the fast rate of growth health care costs. Since the law passed, the rate of health care spending growth has fallen to the lowest on record, and health care price inflation has dropped to its lowest rate in 50 years.  This slower growth in spending is reflected in Medicare and Medicaid, as well as the private insurance market.

This week’s CBO report provides additional confirmation that the Affordable Care Act is driving the significant slow-down in health care spending. Further, the savings will benefit the overall economy as well as individual consumers. While the CBO previously estimated that the Affordable Care Act would reduce the deficit by $1.7 trillion over two decades, in this week’s report the CBO concluded that lower-than-expected Marketplace premiums and other recent developments will cut an additional $104 billion from our deficit over the next ten years. The CBO report also projects that lower premiums will persist in the years ahead.

“This Law is Working”

In addition to today’s favorable report on enrollment numbers, we also got some very encouraging news about the Americans who signed up for coverage. March and April saw an uptick in the share of young people signing up for private plans using the exchanges — and according to senior administration officials, 35 percent of those who enrolled through the federal government’s website were under the age of 35, and twenty-eight percent were between the ages of 18 and 34. These people, who are presumably healthier, are needed to balance out the medical costs of older, sicker consumers.

In an interview with the New Republic, Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that the number of young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 who signed up in March and April is a good sign for the future:

“To get to 28 percent overall, there had to be a lot of young people among the late enrollees,” Levitt explained. “That also bodes well for who is likely to sign up next year.”

President Obama was clearly encouraged by the numbers. “This law is working,” he said.

The President also hit back at opponents of the law. While he acknowledged that the work is not done yet, he rightly insisted that continued Republican demands for repeal are unproductive and unwise.

“This law won’t solve all the problems in our health care system,” he said. “We know we’ve got more work to do, but we now know for a fact that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit, raise premiums for millions of Americans, and take insurance away from millions more.”

The president said it was “well past time” for Republicans to quit trying to repeal the program, something he said they have voted on “some 50 times.”

Republicans “still can’t bring themselves to admit” that the program is working, he said.

The President said he thinks the GOP is going through the “stages of grief” relating to their failure to stop the law. “Anger and denial,” he said. “They haven’t reached acceptance yet.”

And he’s right — as recently as this week, Ted Cruz still seems to be under the impression that he can undo the health care law, declaring that he wants to repeal “every single piece” of the Affordable Care Act.

But unfortunately for Ted Cruz and the other GOP saboteurs, things are looking up for the Affordable Care Act. Public opinion has shifted dramatically in favor of the law, and even critics in the media are catching on to the good news. At town halls across the country, Americans are confronting their Republican lawmakers and demanding an explanation for their attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act.

For Democrats, however, the GOP’s tired strategy of “repeal, repeal repeal” may have a major upside: if things keep going the way they have been, Republicans’ singular focus on undoing the successful health care law may turn out to be the undoing of Republicans come November.

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