A reminder of life before Obamacare


As Republicans have begun dismantling the Affordable Care Act, they’ve been met with a backlash that might be surprising to some. It shouldn’t be.

Americans have, for quite a while, been clear about wanting to keep at least some of the benefits that Obamacare provides. Now, more Americans favor the law than oppose it, according to a new poll.

Why? It’s not just the benefits that most people know about — coverage for millions more Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions. It’s also because the Affordable Care Act has improved the insurance landscape in many, quieter ways.

That might be easy to forget after years of Republicans calling Obamacare a failure. So here’s a reminder of what life was like before the Affordable Care Act:

People thought the health care system was terrible: For years, even decades, before Obamacare, Americans wanted health care and insurance reform. By 2008, health care costs were skyrocketing and insurance plans seemed to cover less and less — and that was if you were lucky enough to afford coverage.

That’s why a vast majority of Americans — including 82 percent in one 2008 poll — wanted the health care system to be overhauled.

Premiums were going up rapidly: Between 2000 and 2010, average family premiums for employer coverage grew 8 percent per year — a perpetual burden on Americans’ budgets. From 2010 to 2016, that same average has grown at a slower 5 percent a year.

Hundreds of thousands of people were afraid to change jobs: It’s a phenomenon called “job lock” — people being afraid to leave their corporate jobs and go out on their own because doing so meant walking away from affordable premiums. For some, the risk was even greater; if you had a pre-existing condition, insurance companies could refuse to sell you coverage. No longer.

Women got fewer mammograms: According to a study published this month in the journal Cancer, more women of all income and education levels got screened for breast cancer once Obamacare eliminated the out-of-pocket costs for the test. While there’s no way to know for sure if the ACA was the reason behind the increase (colonoscopy screenings did not see a similar rise), it makes sense that removing the financial barrier for cancer screenings and flu shots would result in more preventive care — and a healthier, less-costly population.

Women paid more than men: Before Obamacare, women buying insurance on the individual market were often charged more than men. The practice was known as “gender rating.” The ACA made that illegal.

There were more hospital mistakes: After Obamacare offered incentives for hospitals to avoid readmissions and harm to patients, hospital readmissions for Medicare beneficiaries dropped 8 percent. That translates into 565,000 fewer readmissions, according the Department of Health and Human Services.

Obamacare has brought other benefits for Americans, such as lowering prescription drug costs for some, and putting an end to annual and lifetime limits on coverage. Is the ACA perfect? Far from it. But as Republicans float various ways to replace it, they’re finding that Americans’ memories are getting clearer. Obamacare is not a failure. It’s an improvement.

— The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

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