As your family gathers around the table this Thanksgiving, the conversation may get a little heated if your right-wing relatives bring up President Obama’s signature health law. The Affordable Care Act remains both unpopular and misunderstood among the American public — a combination that makes it likely fodder for holiday conflicts.
So, if your Tea Party uncle starts making wild assertions about the Affordable Care Act, here are some key points that will help keep your conversation on track:
Obamacare is not causing premiums to skyrocket.
Since the rollout of Obamacare last year, GOP lawmakers have predicted that premiums would continue to escalate for the millions of Americans purchasing health insurance on the marketplaces. However, according to a recent Center for American Progress analysis, the premium rates for individual market in states with federally-run marketplaces will increase by an average of less than 4 percent between 2014 and 2015. Compare that to the the years before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, when average health care premiums increased more than 10 percent annually.
Plus, more of the nation’s largest insurers will participate in the exchanges for the first time this year, which will increase competition and ultimately lower rates for Americans shopping for plans. While rates remain high in some rural regions of the United States — including Tennessee and West Virginia — those areas have had low competition among insurers historically. And recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said that premiums in those states too will likely decrease under the health care law.
“The dark predictions of widespread, quickly escalating premiums appear not to have materialized for 2015,” that reported concluded.
Jonathan Gruber did not expose the “real truth” about the law.
The controversy surrounding Obamacare intensified earlier this month, after videos surfaced of health care economist Jonathan Gruber attributing the law’s success to “the stupidity of the American voter.” Gruber — who’s often credited as an “architect” of the health law, even though some Democratic lawmakers take issue with that assessment — suggested that Obamacare would not have passed if more people realized that its individual mandate is essentially a tax, or that it requires healthy people to subsidize care for sicker people.
But, despite the headlines about “GruberGate,” this controversy hasn’t actually revealed a fundamental truth about the Affordable Care Act. As the legislation moved through Congress, the debate over Obamacare thoroughly addressed the aspects of the policy that Gruber claims lawmakers were hiding. The Congressional Budget Office did score the individual mandate as a mechanism to increase revenue, and President Obama was open about the fact that young and healthy people are necessary to balance out the cost of providing coverage for older and sicker people.
The website was a disaster last year, but it’s actually working better this time around.
The ongoing controversy over Gruber’s comments has largely obscured the fact that open enrollment is going much more smoothly than it did when Obamacare’s marketplaces first launched last year. During the first enrollment period, catastrophic website glitches prevented people from signing up, and the rocky rollout made a lot of people rightfully skeptical about whether the new marketplaces were ready for business. But, as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, the second enrollment period opened to “largely positive reviews,” and people were able to sign up for plans in just minutes. Although some people have reported issues with the site, it’s going much better.
Over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot less coverage of HealthCare.gov’s successful operations that there was about its glitches — probably because a functioning website makes for a pretty boring story.
Obamacare has successfully lowered the uninsured rate.
While nearly half of the respondents in Kaiser Family Foundation’s recent tracking poll said they have an unfavorable opinion about Obamacare, there’s one positive effect of the landmark legislation that’s hard to argue with. Millions of the poor, people of color, women, and those with preexisting conditions were able to attain coverage for the first time when the market places opened last year.
The effects since then have been significant. The number of uninsured people fell by at least 10 million, according to data compiled by Commonwealth Fund. In low-income communities, the uninsurance rate dropped nearly 10 percentage points. There’s no doubt that newly insured people are putting their coverage to use. Another Commonwealth Fund study in July found that 60 percent of enrollees have used their new insurance to seek services.
And Obamacare has the potential to drive the uninsured rate down even further. If every state accepted Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion — a policy that 20 GOP-led states continue to block — the national rate of uninsured people would be two percentage points lower, according to a recent New York Times analysis.
Businesses are not cutting back on workers’ hours or coverage because of Obamacare.
Obamacare is not creating a “part time economy.” The vast majority of employers say the law has had no impact on their workers’ hours. An analysis released by the Urban Institute and the Robert Johnson Wood Foundation last month found that number of part-time jobs have increased since 2011 because of the slow economic recovery, while the availability of benefits to part-time workers has only slightly changed. And according to a survey of employer benefits conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the portion of businesses that offer health benefits to their part-time workers has remained stable over the last 15 years, increasing by three percentage points.
If businesses are saying that the law is forcing them to cut back hours and drop coverage, they’re probably just using Obamacare as a convenient scapegoat. Employers have a long history of shifting health care costs onto their employees and cutting back on coverage to help their bottom lines. This practice continues under the Affordable Care Act. According to a survey conducted earlier this year, one in six employers are still providing skimpy plans to their workers to save money.