The Effect Of Obamacare

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 15 2015 @ 4:45pm

It’s starting to show up:

Every two years, the Commonwealth Fund surveys Americans on how difficult it is to afford medical care. The 2014 survey showed something new: for the first time in a decade, the number of Americans who say they can afford the health care they need went up.

John Tozzi provides necessary context:

A bunch of surveys and analyses have shown that insurance coverage is increasing under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The new data are important because they show that financial barriers to care are coming down as well—even though many Obamacare plans come with high deductibles and other cost-sharing that makes patients shoulder greater costs.

Tara Culp-Ressler doesn’t overlook at those who still can’t afford treatment:

The high cost of health care remains an issue for millions of Americans; according to Commonwealth, there are still about 66 million adults who reported skipping out on care last year because they couldn’t afford it. And previous studies from the organization have documented a trend in employers pushing more health costs onto their workers, leaving some Americans struggling to pay their deductibles and co-pays. Medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. Still, the new report provides significant evidence that the Affordable Care Act is taking steps to tackle the problem.

Peter Blair is skeptical of Commonwealth’s findings:

[A]ccording to the Commonwealth Fund, the growth of high deductible plans could reverse some of these trends and access problems still remain acute for lower-income Americans. And even those may not be caveats enough, given that Gallup’s study of the access question reached the opposite conclusion. According to that poll, “Despite a drop in the uninsured rate, a slightly higher percentage of Americans than in previous years report having put off medical treatment, suggesting that the Affordable Care Act has not immediately affected this measure.”

Lastly, in not so good news for Obamacare, Ben Casselman calculates that law has reduced some workers’ hours:

Taken together, the evidence suggests that the health law has likely led a few hundred thousand workers to see their hours cut or capped. That’s small in the context of an economy with 150 million workers. But it isn’t a minor issue for those workers. Most of them are among the economy’s most vulnerable: low-wage, part-time workers who likely have few other options.

But much of the increase in part-time work is voluntary:

The Congressional Budget Office, in a report before the law had fully taken effect, estimated that millions of Americans would voluntarily shift to part-time status once they no longer needed to work full-time to qualify for health benefits. It’s hard to know exactly how many have already done so. But there has been a marked increase in recent months in the number of people reporting they are working part-time by choice. It’s possible, as liberal economist Dean Baker has suggested, that this rise reflects the effect of the health law.