Last week, while the media parsed the meaning of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision and the clashing district court rulings on insurance subsidies issued through HealthCare.gov, Obamacare quietly celebrated another milestone. According to a study, 10.3 million Americans gained health insurance this year.
The celebration was a bit muted because: a) it didn't mesh with the Chicken Little tone of the week; b) the study appeared in the august New England Journal of Medicine, which has yet to run any news relating to the Kardashian family; and c) the administration kept it on the down-low.
The uninsured rate drops to 16.3 percent
You see, even the feds seemed somewhat chagrined by the study, which was compiled by Harvard University, authorized by some federal health researchers, and represents the first-ever estimate of newly insured adults to appear in a major medical journal. The administration had previously estimated that just over 8 million adults had obtained health insurance, most with the aid of tax subsidies, during the inaugural open enrollment period, though it was not known how many of those had previously been uninsured.
The study found that the number of insured adults declined by almost five percentage points nationally, from 21 percent last September to 16.3 percent in April, following the close of the inaugural open enrollment period on the new state health exchanges. The 26 states that expanded Medicaid as provided for under the Affordable Care Act saw the greatest increase in newly insured residents.
The researchers stressed that because the data came from several sources and because their analyses factored in economic changes as well as insurance trends, the actual number of adults who gained insurance due to Obamacare could range from 7.3 million to as high as 17.2 million.
A muted administration reaction
While the results of the study no doubt pleased the administration, the official response was tempered.
"We are committed to providing every American with access to quality, affordable health services and this study reaffirms that the Affordable Care Act has set us on a path toward achieving that goal," said new Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in a statement. "This study also reaffirms that expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is important for coverage, as well as a good deal for states."
The rather muted statement is understandable; no doubt high-fives were strictly forbidden at 1600 Penn for fear the administration would appear to have concocted a media diversion from Obamacare's recent court setbacks. In that sense, Burwell's measured tone is perfect for the current environment, even if it does sound like the language you'd use to politely remove a neighbor's dog from your lap.
So allow me to blow the feds' horn, very quietly, for them. Based on this study, President Barack Obama and crew have managed, against all odds, to provide affordable health insurance to more adults than the resident populations, including children, of 43 states.
Not bad for beginners.
Here's another look at the recent court battles over health exchange subsidies.
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