Sore Winners and Sore Losers from Obamacare.

Medicare provides health insurance for 98 percent of Americans aged 65 and over.

Who lacked/lacks health insurance before/since the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?

Group                                                  Before ACA               Today              Difference.

All Americans under 65                      16.4 percent                11.3 percent    -31 percent.

Hispanic-Mexicans                              26.2 percent                16.5 percent    -37 percent

Blacks                                                             24.1 percent                16.1 percent    -33 percent.

Whites                                                14.1 percent                10.0 percent    -29 percent

Asians                                                             13.6 percent                 9.7 percent    -29 percent

Aged between 18 and 34,                   21.6 percent                14.2 percent    -34 percent[1]

Aged 35 to 44                                     16.4 percent                11.2 percent    -32 percent

Aged 45 to 54                                     15.0 percent                10.6 percent    -29 percent

Aged 55 to 64                                                 12.7 percent.               9.1 percent    -28 percent

Poorest 20 percent of neighborhoods 26.4 percent                17.5 percent    -36 percent

Next poorest 20 percent                      21.6 percent                14.3 percent    -34 percent

Middle 20 percent,                              17.6 percent                11.9 percent   -33 percent

Next highest 20 percent                      13.4 percent                 9.4 percent    -30 percent

Richest 20 percent                               6.5 percent                6.5 percent    ————–


Overall and within almost all groups, the ACA has reduced the uninsured by about one-third. Still, two-thirds of those who were uninsured before the ACA remain uninsured today.

Why hasn’t a plan intended to provide almost all Americans with health insurance come anywhere near to achieving that goal? In large measure, the failures of this part of the ACA go back to its design. The ACA originally sought to coerce the states into expanding Medicaid to cover many of those who are uninsured today. In 2012, the Supreme Court rejected that component of the plan. States were left free to expand or not expand Medicaid. So far, twenty-seven states have chosen to expand Medicaid, while twenty-three have rejected it.

Why did many states reject Medicaid expansion? One answer would be Republican wrecking tactics directed against the center-piece of President Obama’s agenda. However, not all Republican-led states rejected expansion and not all Democratic-led states accepted it.

It is possible that rational calculation played a role. The states that rejected expansion had an average uninsured rate of 18.2 percent before the ACA, while those that accepted expansion had an average uninsured rate of 14.9 percent. Federal subsidies for expanded Medicaid are scheduled to be reduced in a few years. States will have to increase their share of the expanded costs. Many of the states that rejected Medicaid expansion pursue a low-tax strategy to attract business. Other parts of the ACA were not completely thought through. Perhaps the failure to make the complete Federal subsidy permanent is another such “glitch.” It will take a Democratic House, Senate, and White House to fix it.

Even in states that expanded Medicare, 9.2 percent of people remain without insurance.   Why? Ignorance? A libertarian resistance to coercive good intentions? Most Republicans have an ideological opposition to an “entitlement” that was forced on them by Democrats. Unlike post-war Europe, there is no consensus on this issue.

Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz, “Obama’s Health Law: Who Was Helped Most,” NYT, 29 October 2014.

[1] Understates the gain because it doesn’t include the three million people who are allowed to remain on parents’ insurance.

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