More than five years after President Obama first signed his landmark health care reform law, it’s becoming more difficult for critics to deny that it’s accomplishing many of its major goals.
On Monday, Gallup released the latest data on the uninsured rate, finding that the states that embraced Obamacare have seen the largest drops in the number of residents going without health care. Essentially, the 22 states that have worked to implement both major provisions of the law — including setting up a state-level insurance marketplace and expanding the eligibility requirements for Medicaid — have seen their uninsured rates drop by an average of 7.1 points, about two points more than the remaining states that have not taken both steps. In some states, the uninsured rate has declined by more than 10 percentage points.
The results are consistent with multiple previous surveys that have documented a dramatic drop in the uninsured rate since Obamacare’s coverage expansion started taking effect in 2013. Over the past two years, these polls have consistently found that the law is helping the low-income people and people of color who have historically lacked access to adequate insurance.
And Gallup’s new data isn’t the only marker to measure the progress under the Affordable Care Act. According to several recent studies, the law is delivering results in other key areas, effectively refuting many of the dire predictions from its detractors.
Perhaps most significantly, a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association at the end of July concluded that Obamacare is successfully connecting more Americans to health services like doctors and medication. Researchers extrapolated survey data from more than 500,000 Americans and found that, since the health law took effect, more people say they have a primary care physician and fewer people say they’re struggling to afford their care.
“The ACA’s first two open enrollment periods were associated with significantly improved trends in self-reported coverage, access to primary care and medications, affordability, and health,” the researchers concluded — a point that directly contradicts Obamacare’s critics, who claimed that the law would actually reduce access to health care.
Another analysis released this week from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, meanwhile, found that Obamacare didn’t have an adverse effect on labor force participation or substantially increase the number of Americans working part-time jobs — which debunks the right-wing talking point that the law is a job killer.
Of course, the law isn’t perfect. Proponents of a single-payer system say that the ACA doesn’t go far enough to insure all Americans. There are questions about Obamacare’s ability to maintain affordable health care for some middle class people. Health care reform also appears to be contributing to more mergers between huge insurance companies, and it’s unclear how that trend could eventually affect the public.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the evidence that it’s making progress in multiple areas. Other studies examining different aspects of the Affordable Care Act have concluded that the law is helping to reduce hospital errors, to ensure Americans can pay their medical bills, and to maintain competition in the insurance market.
The data hasn’t stopped Republicans in the Senate from attempting to repeal Obamacare as recently as two weeks ago, and the heated political debate surrounding health reform has shown no sign of cooling off even as the law’s policies have become entrenched. But it’s perhaps having a gradual impact on public opinion. Gallup also found that Americans’ attitudes about the law have become more positive in recent months.