Here’s how Obamacare is making a real difference in Americans’ lives:
Every minority group saw large gains in coverage, according to an analysis by the New York Times. Now, 7.2 more Hispanics, 6.1 percent more Native Americans, 5.1 percent more blacks and 5.4 percent more Asians have health insurance. Legal immigrants and naturalized citizens also saw large increases in coverage.
Indeed, the law was so successful in lifting up undeserved populations that it stopped a decades-long expansion of the health-insurance gap between low-income and wealthier Americans, as well as groups that are more likely to be working low-wage jobs, such as high-school graduates and Americans living in non-traditional households.
A report from Blue Cross and Blue Shield that analyzed the claims for 4.7 million Americans newly enrolled in insurance plans revealed that new policy holders are more likely to have significant health problems, such as diabetes or HIV, which previously would have locked them out of coverage that they desperately needed.
Those with Obamacare’s marketplace plans were no more likely to report problems paying medical bills or having high out-of-pocket expenses, and were just as satisfied with their premiums. Those with employer plans were, however, more likely to be satisfied with their choice of providers and their protection against high deductibles. And while those with Medicaid did report more difficulty getting doctors appointments than those with other types of plans, all groups with insurance were significantly better off than the uninsured — and were likely to have both regular care and lower levels of unmet need due to costs.
The law has helped people pay down their bills and slash the amount of debt they carry, according to another paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Americans who signed up for the Medicaid program under Obamacare’s expansion reduced their collection balances by $600 to $1000, according to the researchers. The report also shows that the people who benefited from Medicaid expansion then used that extra money to pay down other debts.
“Health insurance, like any type of insurance, is first and foremost a form of financial protection,” economist Robert Kaestner, one of the study’s authors, told The Washington Post. “It is a real benefit.”
Of course, the most marked improvements are evident in states that fully implemented Obamacare, including its expansion of Medicaid to cover more low-income people. Nineteen states opted not to expand their Medicaid programs — even though the majority of the cost would be covered by the federal government — after a 2012 Supreme Court case made the expansion optional. States that fully implemented the health care reform law saw an increase in residents with health insurance at nearly double the rate of the GOP-controlled states that didn’t.