Recent employment numbers and unemployment rates should dispel the “job killer” label and negative predictions of those who oppose the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The national unemployment rate in March 2010, the month the ACA was signed into law, was 9.9%. The unemployment rate in October 2015 was 5.0%, nearly a 50% reduction. In addition, significant employment gains—jobs—have been made over this same period.
The Brookings Institution noted in their ACA fifth anniversary blog, “Of course, the drop in unemployment and rise in payroll jobs might have been even faster if the ACA had not passed. Nonetheless, it is not easy to make a convincing case that job gains have lagged since the President signed the health insurance law.” The following figure illustrates this point.
Source: Brookings, March 20, 2015
The uninsured rate has also been declining in large measure due to coverage gains from full implementation of the ACA. Healthcare coverage can be purchased through the Marketplace, with premium and cost-sharing subsidies for low- to moderate-income purchasers, and a majority of states have now expanded Medicaid (31 currently, including D.C.).
The November 2015 release of the National Health Uninsured Survey for the first half of 2015 reported that at the time of the interview the national uninsured rate had dropped from 16.0% in 2010 to 9.0% for the January–June 2015 period. The largest decline, more than 50%, came in the young adult age group (19–25 years) where the uninsured rate fell from 33.9% in 2010 to 15.9% for the first half of 2015. In Michigan, the uninsured rate at the time of the interview dropped from 12.2% in 2010 to 6.7% in 2015 according to the Survey.
For the first time in more than 50 years, more than 90% of Americans/Michiganians have healthcare coverage.
While the reduction in the rate and number of uninsured is very encouraging, there is work yet to be done. A number of counties in Michigan still have double-digit uninsured rates, while the uninsured rates for African-Americans and Hispanics remain much higher than the rate for whites, according to Enroll Michigan’s recent report.
There is also good news from David Brooks in his recent NY Times Op-Ed where he cited annual healthcare price growth from March 2010 through August 2015 as the slowest in 50 years. This historically low growth has led to substantial reductions in projected federal healthcare spending and significant improvements in future budget outlooks. As Brooks observes, “We seem to be making at least some incremental progress toward a structural reduction in health care inflation… We haven’t whipped healthcare inflation, or defeated our intractable budget issues. But the evidence suggests we’re landing a few serious blows.”
The number of 50-year records being broken or exceeded and the number of 50% gains is stunning. The Affordable Care Act has achieved a number of historic milestones. The law is not perfect and much could and should be done to improve it, but for the moment, let’s acknowledge these great accomplishments and be grateful.
— Jan Hudson