Insured and hating it

By Denis Storey

The percentage of people without health insurance is now at its lowest point since Gallup began tracking it back in 2008. In April, based on the pollsters’ numbers, 13.4 percent of Americans were uninsured, due in no small part to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The Obama Administration can claim victory on this count. They put the Ps in PPACA.

But while sites such as MSNBC and HuffPo blared the stats from the top of their respective websites, Fox News made no mention of it. (They were too busy celebrating the Supreme Court’s latest prayer ruling — they like it — and the latest in the Benghazi “scandal.”) Even the big brains over at the Heritage Foundation ignored it.

Denial will not win mid-term elections. Or presidential races.

It’s time the GOP acknowledged the good in this law and started focusing on fixing the bad. The expat fix is a good start.

Sure, insuring more people is expensive. Especially if the feds are the ones doing the insuring. Or paying for it through subsidies. And those bills will come due sooner rather than later. This “free health care” isn’t free.

But the alternative is for more costly, both economically and morally. (Does anyone really think those city council prayer meetings the justices just signed off on included missives for the health care needs of their constituents?)

One of my advisory board friends — a staunch conservative — didn’t hesitate to give a nod to the numbers.

“Good news,” he said. “But we need to spread the credit around though. Lots of education by the industry in the last few years that’s hard to measure. The article also fairly points to Medicaid expansion as a contributor.”

Republicans need to attack this wild expansion of Medicaid and how much that will cost us. And what would happen if we did the math so far? The uninsured rate peaked at 18 percent late in the third quarter last year, according to Gallup, right before the exchanges opened up shop. So, it accounted for a 4.6 percent dip in the uninsured rate. And let’s say, for the sake of argument, the feds dropped $100 million in PPACA-related spending since then.

(It’s worth pointing out here that I looked everywhere to track down this actual number — which I’d guess is much higher — but I couldn’t find it anywhere. If anyone can help me out here, I’d appreciate it.)
That works out to nearly $22 million a percentage point. So to insure the rest of them, we’d be looking at nearly $303 million annually — give or take. And this for a country that already outspends every other country in the world when it comes to health care spending as a percentage of GDP.

You don’t need a math idiot like me to tell you it's staggering, if not downright unsustainable.

But this survey, of course, spawns other questions.

“The next question is by spreading the risk and decreasing the amount we as consumers pay for the uninsured when they don’t pay, will the trend for healthcare costs start to decline?” a former broker wondered. “What might happen if there was suddenly support for the law? If real information was provided and the ideological became logical?”

Which raises another interesting point. Despite what should be the success story of this entire administration, the latest Pew Center poll shows lingering opposition to the law. Pew found 55 percent of registered voters disapprove of PPACA. Odd, to say the least.

“The recent surge in sign-ups for the new health-care exchanges has had little impact on public opinion about the Affordable Care Act,” Pew wrote in its survey results. “In fact, the share disapproving of the law is as high as it ever has been in the four-year history of the law.”

I’m guessing very few of those registered voters were without health insurance before. Talk about biting the hand that feeds. I’m pretty sure if I ate dinner tonight, then stood up from the table and told my wife how much I hated it, I wouldn’t be getting another meal anytime soon. If I didn’t get a plate to the head.

But Republicans would make a tragic tactical blunder in simply chasing that 55 percent. They’ve got to look beyond that or they’ll be forfeiting — at the very least — the 8 million potential voters who just signed up for health insurance. I’m sure Mitt Romney would have loved to garner a few of those votes.

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