Remember, Democrats supported popular health care reform

Greenwich-Voices-GoldrickThe news regarding the success of the state’s health exchange, Access Health CT, just keeps getting better.

Some 277,000 residents have now signed up for either expanded Medicaid or private health insurance through the exchange, and more than half of those signing up were previously uninsured. Of the nearly 80,000 people signing up for private plans, four-fifths received federal subsidies.

According to a recent nationwide survey by Gallup Well-Being, Connecticut’s uninsured rate declined by 40% during the ACA’s first open enrollment period. That represents the fourth greatest decline in the uninsured of all 50 states. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently estimated that the ranks of the uninsured in Connecticut fell by half.

So as to congressional candidate Dan Debicella’s claim that the ACA health costs are “out of control,” Charles Gaba, who writes the ACAsignups blog, estimates that the weighted average increase next year in premiums for private plans offered through the Connecticut exchange will be less than 1%. Nationally, per capita Medicare costs have been falling the past two years. And Kaiser determined that premiums on health plans offered by employers rose just 3% last year, the lowest annual increase they have measured.

In fact, Access Health CT’s roll-out and marketing efforts were so effective that Professor John Quelch of Harvard Business School and the Harvard School of Public Health authored a case study about it.

In recognition of that success, Access Health CT chief executive Kevin Counihan was recently awarded a Gold Stevie Award as “Executive of the Year in the Financial Services and Insurance Industry.” Acknowledging the extraordinary success of it unique marketing, Access Health CT’s “Change Is Here” campaign received the “Best of Show Award” from the Insurance Marketing Communications Association.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment was paid to Counihan when President Obama named him CEO of Healthcare.gov, the federal health exchange.

While acknowledging the tremendous success of the ACA in Connecticut, we should remember who helped make that success possible, and who tried hard to block it. Congressman Jim Himes braved rabid crowds in 2009 determined to disrupt his town hall meetings and intimidate him into backing down from his support of health care reform. He didn’t back down. And when Access Health was created by a vote of the General Assembly, Gov. Malloy installed Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman as chairman of the new organization. Wyman then oversaw Counihan in marketing the new plans, and getting sign-ups going.

But while Himes and Malloy and Wyman and the General Assembly Democrats can take credit for this success, Republicans, as the saying goes, have some “’splainin’” to do.

Republican congressional candidate Dan Debicella has adamantly opposed the ACA, and even now contends that it should be repealed. Debicella is embarrassingly wrong in his claim and, despite the reform’s success, he continues to call for its repeal.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley has opposed the ACA from the beginning and supported the widely criticized actions of congressional Republicans last year in shutting down the federal government in an attempt to block the ACA’s implementation. “I support what they’re doing,” said Foley, while, incredibly, blaming the Democrats and president for the government’s shutdown.

Foley has also stated that he is considering taking Connecticut out of extended Medicaid, the program through which some 200,000 Connecticut residents gained health insurance.

And then there are the General Assembly Republicans, including Greenwich’s Rep. Livvy Floren and Sen. Scott Frantz, who all voted against forming Access Health CT. Faced with overwhelming evidence that the ACA is reducing costs and is popular, one would think that Republican elected officials would offer a mea culpa for getting it very wrong. Instead, we hear a deafening silence.

Voters should understand who is responsible for the success of health care reform, and, given Republicans’ continued hostility to the ACA, understand how much they have to lose.

 

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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