It's been interesting to watch news coverage of the Obamacare rollout as it shifts from demographic to demographic and chases the zeitgeist on President Barack Obama's legacy legislation, accomplished against all odds and a hurricane-force propaganda headwind.
Early focus on seniors
Prior to last fall, seniors were often featured prominently in Obamacare stories, despite the fact that eligibility for Medicare, by definition, excludes them from the health insurance exchanges. Their inclusion in the coverage seemed largely driven by all the fear-mongering "death panel" spillover from the political arena.
What few changes Obamacare made to a senior's life were unequivocally positive, including free annual wellness visits, health screenings without deductibles or copays, closing the prescription drug "doughnut hole" and a $350 million investment to fight Medicare fraud.
Then, an accent on youth
As fall approached, the media's attention shifted to the so-called "young invincibles" ages 18 to 30, whose participation is considered critical to the success of the new health exchanges. That was certainly warranted, given that the young owned a disproportionate percentage of the nonconforming "junk" policies that insurers were quickly shedding as Obamacare came into full flower.
The irony, of course, is that Obamacare also made it possible for most of that demographic to remain on their parents' health insurance until age 26. As a result, some were forced to consider exchange coverage while others were not.
Next, the newbies
For much of this young year, the media focus has been on the sheer numbers of Americans newly insured through the exchanges. This week, that total reached 4.2 million, a fairly middling milestone, falling as it does between the government's original goal of 7 million and the dire predictions from the "train wreck" segment of the political opposition.
Most analysts blame the shortfall on the fumbled rollout of the HealthCare.gov website, which served as the default exchange for 36 states that didn't seize the option to build their own.
Now that we're little more than two weeks away from the closing of Obamacare's initial open enrollment, it's interesting to watch the focus shift once again, this time to groups that have flocked to coverage through the exchanges.
Behind prison walls
The New York Times recently examined the surge in prison inmates signing up for coverage. No, not through the exchanges, but instead through that other major initiative of Obamacare that allows states the option to expand Medicaid.
Why the sudden interest behind bars? Because for the first time, states that do expand Medicaid can extend coverage to single and childless adults, a major part of the prison population. The incarcerated also suffer disproportionately higher rates of chronic diseases, including mental illness and addictions. Health experts estimate that up to 35 percent of those newly eligible for Medicaid in the 26 expansion states have jail or prison histories.
Capitol Hill coverage
But my favorite focus piece by far since exchange fever hit is an item from The Washington Post that reveals that 12,000 Capitol Hill staffers have signed up for health insurance through the District of Columbia's new small business marketplace, even though most work for one of the largest businesses in town: Congress. In fact, the congressional aides account for 70 percent of the policies sold thus far through the D.C. Health Link and 98 percent of the plans written through its small business exchange.
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.
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