President Trump and his fellow Republicans just put a big, fat wager on the table. Unable to muster enough support to pass their vaunted repeal-and-replace plan for the Affordable Care Act, the president announced an alternative strategy: “We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are gonna come to us, and they’re gonna say, ‘How do we fix it? How do we fix it?’ or, ‘How do we come up with a new plan?’”
That’s a bold claim, considering that former President Barack Obama – and pretty much every Democrat in D.C. since – has declared it a raging success. “Never in American history has the uninsured rate been lower than it is today. Never!” he said last October.
So who is right? In some ways, the Republicans are. The Affordable Care Act is failing if you counted on Obama’s promise that it would dramatically reduce pretty much everyone’s insurance premiums. The rate of increase has slowed, but those payments are still ticking upward. Choice is also not working out so well. Numerous big name insurance companies have retreated from the markets in several states, leaving some folks with few options or none. Maybe those companies will come back, and the problem will ease. Or maybe not, and it may get worse.
But the Democrats are right, too – the Affordable Care Act is succeeding if you look at the 20 million people who didn’t have insurance before the law and now do. People with pre-existing conditions have more protections. Many of the ACA’s provisions are popular. And despite blustery GOP predictions of a financial “death spiral” for the ACA, the numbers say otherwise. A report from the respected Kaiser Family Foundation this month says “new data offer more evidence that the individual market has been stabilizing, and insurers are regaining profitability.”
That sounds a tad wonky, but here’s the plain English version: While Obamacare is not succeeding as well as some hoped, and it certainly has problems in some places, it’s also not failing coast-to-coast as some others have feared. And unless Republicans nudge it that direction, their wait for Obamacare’s collapse could be a very long one.