No matter what you think of Obamacare, here's the 1 thing it got absolutely right.
No matter what your politics are, here's some good news!
Do you currently have health insurance? Now, more than ever, the answer is likely to be "yes."
Gallup recently released its quarterly Well-Being Index numbers, and when it comes to insurance, the numbers are looking better than ever.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law more than five years ago, and, to put it generously, it's still controversial.
The law has faced (and survived) two Supreme Court challenges. Members of Congress have voted to defund and/or repeal the law more than 50 times. And it remains one of those topics that's probably best not to bring up at the Thanksgiving Day dinner table.
But let's sidestep the rhetoric for a bit and look at the results.
It certainly seems like the ACA is here to stay, especially after it was upheld again just a few weeks ago. So it's worth seeing if the Act is, you know, actually helping people.
In late 2013, just before one of the key provisions of the law was to take effect, there were more uninsured Americans than ever before.
In the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for the fourth quarter of 2013, 17.1% of U.S. adults surveyed had no form of health insurance.
So in 2014, when the key provisions of the law kicked into full effect, it seemed like the moment of truth was finally here. Finally, we'd have the answer to one of the key questions of President Obama's presidency: Will this law actually reduce the number of uninsured Americans?
Now there's good news. Ever since 2014, Gallup has observed a downward trend in uninsured rates.
By the end of the first quarter of 2014, rates dropped below 17%; by the second quarter of 2014, only 15.6% of Americans were without insurance. And by the end of 2015's first quarter, the rate of uninsured Americans was at 11.9%.
Then came the latest numbers, released just after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of key provisions in the law for the second time: 11.4% of Americans are now uninsured, a new record low.
That means that 88.6% of Americans have health insurance coverage now, which is an incredible increase.
Even better, the most improvements were seen in groups with historically high uninsured rates: low-income individuals and people of color.
Between the end of 2013 and the second quarter of 2015, Gallup shows, the uninsured rate for black Americans dropped from 20.9% to 12%; Hispanic people saw their rate drop from 38.7% to 29.1%.
On the whole, uninsured numbers decreased across all ages, races, and income levels.
And with that, the question of whether or not the ACA is helping those most in need has been answered, and it's a resounding "yes."
By making health care more accessible, we're also seeing major on-the-ground improvements.
Those big numbers are one thing. But the millions of people who have seen their insurance situations improve during the past few years are the evidence of true improvements.
They're people like freelancer Andrew Stryker, who told the Washington Post that the ACA helped cut his premiums in half.
And they're people like this employee, who commented on Addicting Info about the struggle to afford insurance on their own.
"I lost my job in 2013 and was offered COBRA at $450 plus per month which I cannot afford on unemployment. I have epilepsy, a pre-existing condition, and was rejected when I shopped for private insurance. Thankfully, the ACA took effect and I now have affordable insurance with the cost based on my low income on unemployment. Without the ACA, I would be left without health insurance leaving me vulnerable to losing the home I worked to pay for over the last 30 years. ... The [ACA] is the best thing that happened to the American people in a very long time. Unfortunately, too many of them don't know it yet, but they will over time."
Politics aside, we're learning an important lesson.
Lives have been changed for the better as a result of expanded insurance access. Let's keep focusing on that priority.