It was nice to see President Obama speak to reporters in his unscheduled appearance at the White House press briefing on Thursday and bluntly defend the growing success of the Affordable Care Act. He was there with good news. It turns out that eight million people (not the seven million just announced, which is more then the six million goal) have now signed up for it through the government exchanges. An additional three million people have signed up for coverage through Medicaid. And three million more young people have coverage on their parents' insurance, thanks to the law. (I particularly loved the president's comment, "So, if my math is correct, that's 14 million people right there.")
But that's not the good news. You see, his correct math is better than even that. Because an additional five million people have coverage now that didn't come through the exchanges but is still part of the same system.
Yet that's not the good news either, good as it all is.
When all of this began, Kaiser Permanente did a study and said that for the Affordable Care Act to be viable, a third of new enrollees should be between the ages of 18-14. That best news is that 35% of sign-ups are under the age of 35.
Without getting young people to sign up, no matter how many other millions enrolled, the law wouldn't work. Insurance companies would drop out. They needed young people to sign up. And now, in this first report, the results show that they're getting them.
What was most interesting about the president's comments though was not so much his defense of the Affordable Care Act and how its success has been building. It's how blunt he was explaining how "wrong" all the critics of it have been. "Wrong," his continued blunt word, in every way. "They were wrong." And with the all the people who now have coverage, with the lower costs that most people are paying, and with the huge savings to the debt, Republican efforts to repeal the entire health care law, the president noted, without them offering any plan in its place would cause near-irreparable damage to all that. That's why, what stood out about the president saying all this is how clear it was from his blunt and repeated statement -- "They were wrong" -- how he was setting up the campaign position for Democrats in the fall.
(You'll note, as I posted here on only Monday, Democratic candidates are now beginning to do just that.)
Numbers, of course, are just numbers. The president was open in acknowledging that the Affordable Care Act isn't perfect and still needs improvement. And certainly, all these people who have signed up are not necessarily first-time recipients of heath insurance. But all 14 million (or 19 million, if you include those additional numbers) are participating in a program that Republicans have said -- and said and said and said and said -- and said and said wouldn't work. Said people simply would not sign up for. And having said all that, they were "wrong."
The thing about the Affordable Care Act...wait, no, I"m sorry, I mean "about Obamacare"...
Back four years ago (almost to the day, March 23, 2010), I wrote an article here on the Huffington Post about how the biggest mistake Republicans were making was their trying to derisively call the Affordable Care Act by the name, "Obamacare." It was a problem, I said, because rather than being a negative they were tying together two words: "Obama" and "cares." And that's how the public would therefore see the ACA when it was finally implemented and working and people had health coverage they'd never had before and have it at lower costs. Obama cares. And so, that's what's now happening, four years later, as we move towards the November election. And that's why we now see the president coming forth. To be the face of Obamacare. To show that Obama cares. And to make clear to the voting public that the Republicans have been repeatedly and relentlessly "wrong." And don't have anything else to offer.
Here's how I put it four years ago --
But it's actually worse than that for Republicans. Because Republicans, who are usually so good at coming up with fake catch-phrases like "Death Taxes" made their biggest gaffe of all. Gargantuan.
"President Barack Obama - cares," I wrote. "And the Republican Party is the one who told you, who drilled it deep into your consciousness."
And now, up to 19 million people already, in just over five months, have signed up for health care and had benefits from a law that Republicans have been trying to repeal and saying it wouldn't work. Because, as Republicans themselves tell us, Obama cares. As I concluded that article -- from four years ago! -- "The Republicans did it all to themselves. They put all their eggs in one basket. And in the end, the eggs were rotten. And the basket crumbled."
And the thing is for all these big numbers already, it could be even bigger. Should be even bigger, except for all the Red states that are blocking the extension of the Medicaid part of the program at no cost to themselves, blocking their states' residents from having coverage, all for purely political reasons. And that, the president said...well, here, let him explain it himself.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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