Here are a couple of facts that haven’t made it into many of the heated political debates being held around the country and in North Carolina this election season.
A new report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the number of uninsured people in the United States fell by 7.2 million in 2015. That means that there are 16 million fewer uninsured people than two years ago when the Affordable Care Act began.
The other number that seems buried in the news is that more 610,000 people in North Carolina signed up for health care under the ACA during the open enrollment period that ended February 1st.
That is more than a ten percent increase over the enrollment figures from the year before. The overwhelming majority of those who enrolled will receive a subsidy to help pay their premiums.
Candidates blasting the ACA /Obamacare every day don’t mention any of those numbers but the facts are undeniable. The health care law has significantly reduced the number of people without insurance in America and North Carolinians are signing up for coverage in increasing numbers.
The CDC report is also a reminder of the human consequences of the unwillingness of Gov. Pat McCrory to expand Medicaid under the health care law.
The percentage of uninsured people in the 31 states that have expanded Medicaid is far lower than in states like North Carolina where leaders have refused expansion.
Kentucky for example has just over 6 percent of its population not covered by insurance of some kind.
The ACA has helped reduce the number of uninsured people in North Carolina too but there are still 12.1 percent of the population who are not covered, almost twice the level of Kentucky where the state expanded Medicaid and set up its own state-level insurance marketplace under the law where people could sign up for coverage.
Medicaid expansion in North Carolina would not only provide coverage to several hundred thousand people who are currently uninsured, it would create thousands of jobs and help struggling rural hospitals stay open and serve their local communities. And the federal government would pick up most of the cost.
The eye-opening CDC report and the reminder it provides of what North Carolina is missing by not expanding Medicaid comes as a right-wing think tank in Raleigh bizarrely argues that providing health coverage for more people would have a “human cost.”
Apparently it is better in the group’s world view for people not to be able to see a doctor when they are sick and rely on the emergency room for their treatment.
It’s also worth remembering the long list of benefits of the health care law that many politicians keep promising to repeal without proposing an alternative.
Nobody mentions it anymore, but thanks to the ACA no one can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition and can’t have their coverage cancelled when they get sick. People also have access to preventive care for free, which saves lives and money. And there are no lifetime caps on coverage.
None of that would be true if the repealers had their way.
There are plenty of other aspects of the law that are helping families every day and virtually every individual aspect of the ACA is popular with the American people even if they have some general opposition to the law as whole thanks to the distortions of its ideological opponents.
One of the most common claims on the campaign trail is that Obamacare is somehow a job killer. That’s a tough one to explain since as many analysts have pointed out job creation was higher in the first two years of the law’s implementation than it has been since the 1990s
The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. But no matter how you measure, it has improved the lives of millions of people.
Imagine how much it more could do in North Carolina and across the country if there was more energy spent on ways to improve it instead of misleading people about what the law actually does and blustering about its repeal.
Chris Fitzsimon is the Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch.