Four More Studies On The Benefits Of Obamacare

Over the past year I receive reports from various medical journals and medical practice publications with what feels like a constant flow of studies showing the success of the Affordable Care Act, many of which I have written about in previous posts. Jonathan Chait has an article in New York Magazine on 4 New Studies Show Obamacare Is Working Incredibly Well which gives a representative sample of the studies now being published. While there are more, for the moment I’ll just stick to briefly mentioning the four studies described by Chait, partially in response to Chuck Schumer’s recent comments questioning whether the Democrats should have passed the Affordable Care Act for political reasons .

He started with one of the main goals of the law, expanding the number people who have medical coverage, while also pointing out that the number would be significantly higher if the Supreme Court hadn’t blocked Medicaid expansion:

Every serious method of measuring has shown the law effecting significant reductions in the uninsured rate. The latest, a report by the Urban Institute yesterday, shows that the uninsured rate has fallen nationally by 30 percent…

That rate is 36 percent in states participating in the Medicaid expansion. The states whose Republican governors or legislators have boycotted the expansion have seen their uninsured rates fall by just 24 percent, dragging down the average.

See his full article for more information along with charts demonstrating these benefits.

He next looked at health care costs:

When the law passed, conservatives insisted it would increase rather than decrease health-insurance costs. (Esteemed conservative intellectual Yuval Levin, in 2010, insisted it “completely fails” to reduce overall health-care spending.) Since the law passed, health-care inflation has fallen to historically low levels. Conservatives have repeatedly insisted this was a blip that would soon be reversed, and seized upon any apparent evidence for this case. When health-care spending spiked in the first quarter of 2014, Megan McArdle announced vindication: “After all the speculation that Obamacare might be bending the cost curve, we now know that so far, it isn’t.” (It turned out the first-quarter spike in health-care spending was a preliminary miscount that has since been corrected.)

Also yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid reported that health inflation in 2013 not only remained in, it fell to the lowest level since the federal government began keeping track…

His third  study was on medical errors:

Obamacare has a wide variety of reforms designed to bend the cost curve. One of them is a new payment system that encourages hospitals to avoid readmissions. The old Medicare system reimbursed hospitals for every procedure. This meant they had a perverse incentive to do a bad job taking care of their patients — a patient who developed an infection, or needed readmission, would produce a second stream of revenue for the hospital. Obamcare’s payment reforms changed that incentive. A new report finds that hospital-acquired medical conditions has fallen by 17 percent since 2010. (This has not only saved huge amounts of money, it has also saved 50,000 lives.)

He concluded by quoting from a Kaiser Health News analysis  on the benefits of increased competition:

A surge in health insurer competition appears to be helping restrain premium increases in hundreds of counties next year, with prices dropping in many places where newcomers are offering the least expensive plans … In counties that are adding at least one insurer next year, premiums for the least expensive silver plan are rising 1 percent on average. Where the number of insurers is not changing, premiums are growing 7 percent on average.

The downside is that the lower prices require consumers to actively shop on the exchanges. Customers who automatically renew their existing plan without comparison shopping will miss out.

That is an important point at the end. Failing to shop around can lead to paying much higher premiums than is necessary. The Obama administration is considering a plan in which people can choose to be automatically be placed in the least expensive plan available in a tier as opposed to automatically having the current plan renewed. This has the downside (as in recognized in the proposal) that people would then be at greater risk of winding up in a plan which their doctor doesn’t accept. It is far safer to shop around for the best plan on your own, taking into consideration factors such as which doctors are in a plan.

Now, if only more Democrats would talk about the benefits of the plan they passed, as opposed to cowering in terror when attacked by Republicans, the party, and the country, would be far better off.

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