Obamacare is a huge success in Connecticut

Greenwich-Voices-GoldrickGiven the scant attention paid it by Connecticut newspapers, you can be forgiven for not knowing that the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut has proven a tremendous success.

Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, was voted into existence by General Assembly Democrats in 2011 over the opposition of Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate John McKinney and every Greenwich Republican, and signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy. The next year, Malloy made a shrewd hire, bringing in Kevin Counihan, an architect of Massachusetts’ health care system (aka Romneycare) to build Connecticut’s health exchange.

Under Counihan’s direction, Connecticut’s exchange functioned superbly from day one, avoiding pitfalls of the federal exchange and becoming a model for other states. It’s worked so well that Maryland’s legislature recently voted to replace its system with Connecticut’s.

By the end of the first sign-up period, over 200,000 Nutmeggers had gained health insurance through Access Health CT, more than double the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ projection. While Republicans continue to rail that Obamacare is a “train wreck,” the new health insurance system is not only working superbly in Connecticut, but is also very popular.

A surge of enrollment towards the end of March, when Access Health was signing up as many as 4,000 people a day, resulted in nearly 79,000 residents enrolling in qualified health plans through the state’s exchange. Nearly four in five of those received federal subsidies. Plus 31% of all enrollees were under the age of 35, higher than Massachusetts enrolled during the early days of Romneycare.

Far from causing health care costs to “spiral out of control,” as U.S. Rep. Jim Himes’ opponent Dan Debicella charged, per capita health expenditures over the past three years have risen at the lowest rate in more than half a century. The Congressional Budget Office recently forecast that Medicare and Medicaid costs in 2020 will be $180 billion lower than predicted in 2010.

And the Republicans’ claim that more people lost their health insurance due to Obamacare than gained it through the exchanges? Pure bunk, according to a study by the RAND Corp., which covered the period beginning in September last year through mid-March 2014 (missing the big surge in enrollments during the last two weeks of the enrollment period) and revealed that the percentage of Americans under 65 without medical insurance fell dramatically from 20.5% to 15.8%.

RAND estimates that 9.3 million more Americans have health insurance than before enrollment in Obamacare began. Charles Gaba, whose ACAsignups.net  website tracks enrollment in state exchanges, estimates that as many as 23 million Americans gained health insurance through state and federal exchanges through early April.

But keep in mind that the ACA encompasses much more than the health exchanges. Thanks to the ACA, 23,000 people under the age of 26 in Connecticut have been able to retain health insurance through their parents’ policies. Add to that the fact that 42,000 seniors and people with disabilities in this state saved more than $900 each due to the ACA’s closing of the so-called “donut hole” in Medicare Part D.

No longer are women subjected to gender discrimination by being charged higher premiums than men. No longer can insurance companies arbitrarily cancel a person’s insurance when he contracts a serious disease. No one can be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition. Lifetime insurance caps are no longer legal and women are now assured of prenatal care and contraceptive coverage at no cost.

It’s time for Gov. Malloy, Congressman Himes, and General Assembly Democrats to take a well-deserved bow. Thanks to their courage and foresight, residents of this state are better off. But Mr. McKinney, Mr. Debicella and Greenwich’s General Assembly Republicans have some explaining to do.

Obamacare’s a success and that’s big news.

 

Sean Goldrick is a Democratic member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, though the opinions expressed in this column are his own. He may be reached at [email protected]

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