Remember how I told you last week that health reform has helped 500,000 additional young adults to get health insurance in 2010? Scratch that. Add another million to it. One million.
That's right. The report last week was based on Census data as of 2010. And now the CDC has released data that just in the first three months of 2011, one million more young adults 19-25 have joined the rolls of the insured (that's a full 3.5 percentage point drop in just three months, from 33.9% of young adults uninsured to 30.4%), thanks to the provision in the Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare, heck to the yeah!) that allows young people up to age 26 to remain on their parents' insurance plan. This reduced the number of young adults without insurance from 10 million to about 9 million. In three months.
So why is this such a big deal? Because this is the group that has constantly had the highest rate of uninsured over the years. Sometimes us people in our 20s (ok I'm not under 25 anymore) feel invincible, but even more often than that, people in their 20s are either in school or in a new or low-paying job where they either are not offered health insurance or cannot afford it. As the following chart from the HHS issue brief on this subject shows, health reform is very effective in addressing this. While as a consequence the exchanges not yet having opened, the overall number of the uninsured continue to climb, the young adults group is the only one with a decreasing uninsurance rate as well as number.
And oh, it's not me that's saying that this is the result of ObamaCare, it is the HHS data and issue brief:
While it is theoretically possible that the increase in insurance coverage for young adults in 2011 is due to some factor other than the Affordable Care Act, it is hard to identify a plausible alternative explanation for the increase in coverage among young adults. One possibility is that the recession did not affect young adults as much as other age groups, but in fact, the opposite occurred. Unemployment among 20-24 year-olds increased by 7.3 percentage points (from 8.2% to 15.5%) from 2006 to 2010, compared to a 4.8 percentage-point increase among 25-54 year-olds (from 3.8% to 8.6%). Given the toll the recession has taken on employment among young adults, we would expect that insurance rates would, if anything, have decreased in this group compared to older adults. This observation bolsters the conclusion that the increase in coverage among young adults is a result of the Affordable Care Act.Therein lies the true purpose of health care reform. Losing one's job is hard enough, and when that happens, one ought not have to worry about how they are going to be able to afford to see a doctor. It's hard enough to have to suffer from the economic consequences of a recession, and one ought not be forced to suffer its devastating health care consequences too. No one should have to go bankrupt because they have been laid off and cannot afford health insurance. Nor should one have to be bound to a dead-end job just because it provides health coverage for them and their family.
This is why health reform was and is needed. Not so that we can win some ideological battle of principle fought from the comfort of one's own armchair, but so that we can help people who are in need. That is also the measure of a reform. Does it help people? Does it work?
The Affordable Care Act works, without a question. Expanding coverage works. Rate review works. Regulating insurance companies works. Ultimately, success is what proves the cynics wrong, and there can be little doubt that when progress is measured by how health reform is working as the individual components of it become enacted over time, health reform is succeeding and making real progress.
For those who wanted to stop health reform - from the Right or the Left, this is what they wanted to stop. Whether it was the Tea Party people who wanted to stop it because they oppose government intervention in the health insurance market place (except for their Medicare, of course) or the ideologue Left who wanted to stop it because it did not meet certain litmus tests, had their efforts been successful, today we would see an increasing number of young adults uninsured, not a decreasing number.
Had their efforts borne fruit, Medicare would still be paying a 14% extra premium to private companies for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Advantage premiums would have risen, rather than fallen by 12% in two years. Had their destructive efforts succeeded, there would be no preventive care without copays, no requirement that health insurance companies spend 80-85% of your premiums on actually providing health care, and no patients' bill of rights on sterroids. There would be no expansion of Medicaid (despite the crocodile tears on the pretend-Left about a "public option") and no expansion of Community Health Centers.
With health reform, as a country, we have taken a giant step forward. Is there more to do? Oh, yes. But it's time for anyone who had opposed health reform from an ideological point of view but cares about helping their fellow Americans to wake up and be proud of health reform, and fight like heck in 2012 to keep it and ensure we move further forward.