More Americans Have Health Coverage

Speaking of Obamacare, news was out last week about its continued success in reducing the number of Americans without access to health care.  Check out Matthew Iglesias (and Sarah Kliff) at Vox, and Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:

  • Iglesias:

A chart that Obamacare’s fiercest critics will have a hard time explaining

The share of Americans who lack health insurance coverage plunged again last quarter, according to Gallup, down to the lowest level since it started keeping track. An additional 1 percent of the American public — more than 3 million people — went from uninsured to insured over the past quarter. Unfortunately Gallup’s data on this doesn’t go very far back, but as you can see this is way lower than where it was when the company started counting.

Every time one of these quarterly reports comes out, I hear from conservatives saying to me that of course a law that mandates the purchase of insurance and then subsidizes it will succeed in getting people health insurance. And I agree! But conservatives didn’t always.

A year or two ago, people up and down the food chain from incredibly popular conservative media celebrities to incredibly obscure conservative think tank wonks were making the case that Obamacare wasn’t expanding coverage.

Rush Limbaugh used to argue that people would never sign up for Obamacare plans. National Review editor and Politico columnist Rich Lowry argued that new signups were just coming from people who were already insured. And to back up his claim, Lowry had an American Enterprise Institute health policy scholar.

Now in defense of conservatives, it’s a mistake to attribute this all to the Affordable Care Act. A decline in the uninsured rate is, in part, a reflection of the growing strength of the economy and the accelerating pace of job creation.

On the other hand, conservatives also predicted that Obamacare would destroy the economy. In a 2011 press conference, John Boehner used the phrase “job killing” once every two minutes. Then in 2012 we had the best year of job creation since 2005. In 2013 we had an even better year of job creation. Then in 2014, we had an even better year, the best since 1999.


  • Chait:

Uninsured Rate Falls Again for Random Reason Totally Unrelated to Obamacare

Not long ago, the hypothesis that Obamacare would substantially reduce the uninsured rate was a point of fierce ideological disagreement. The National Center for Policy Analysis, a major conservative health-care think tank, predicted in 2013, “the massive law that was enacted to solve the problem of the uninsured in America is more likely to worsen it.” “At the end of the day, for all of the rhetoric and promises about what Obamacare would achieve, the health law’s most ardent supporters have stuck to their guns because of one thing: coverage expansion,” wrote Avik Roy, a leading Republican health-care adviser, in 2014. “But new data suggests that Obamacare may fail even to achieve this goal.” Obamacare would result in “essentially the same number of uninsured,” insisted Charles Krauthammer in February 2014.

The point of this little walk through the past is that Gallup has a new survey out today, and lo and behold, the uninsured rate has fallen again:


It is starting to look possible that this trend is not some random fluke that has happened six straight quarters but is somehow related to the enactment of Obamacare. So any day now, we can expect conservative politicians and intellectuals to begin publicly rethinking their analysis of this law.