Obamacare’s Meager ‘Success’

Published February 24, 2015

This morning Gallup released poll results showing the uninsured rate in the U.S. dropped to the lowest level in seven years, with a good deal of the credit presumably going to Obamacare. Here’s how the Associated Press wrote the story up and as it appeared at Modern Healthcare:

Survey: Uninsured rate hit new low in 2014

The share of Americans without health insurance dropped to its lowest level in seven years in 2014 as President Barack Obama’s overhaul took full effect, according to an extensive survey released Tuesday…

Comparing full-year results, Gallup found a drop of 3.5 percentage points in the share of Americans without health insurance from 2013 to 2014…

Dan Witters, research director for the poll, said about 12.3 million fewer adults were uninsured in the last three months of 2014, when compared with the third quarter of 2013, when HealthCare.gov was launched…

Curiously, the article doesn’t provide what would seem a pretty important bit of information – how many people remain uninsured, either in raw number form or the percentage. It’s not difficult to understand why – pointing to an uninsured rate of 13.8 percent and shouting “This is what success looks like” might look a little odd (here’s the original Gallup release, which does provide that information: Arkansas, Kentucky See Most Improvement in Uninsured Rates).

It’s also worth considering the nature of the coverage – the overwhelming majority of it is people newly enrolled in Medicaid, a broken program that offers poor access to care while putting tremendous strain on state budgets.

The uninsured rate has come down, and it’s hard to argue that’s a bad thing. But I think it’s also hard to argue Obamacare has been worth the costs, particularly in light of the fact that in the end Obamacare appears to be leaving 35 million or so people uninsured with not much hope of bringing that number down substantially anytime soon.