It was five years ago today that the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. Particularly given the immense difficulties and compromises inherent in getting legislation through the World’s Worst Deliberative Body, it has been a remarkable policy triumph. Jon Cohn observes:
Five years later, by any reasonable and objective criteria, “Obamacare” has achieved a great deal. The percentage of adults without health insurance has dropped to 12.9 percent, according to Gallup. That’s the lowest the organization has recorded and corresponds, according to the Obama administration, to insurance for about 16.4 million people who might not otherwise have it. “Health insurance” is not the same as “health care,” but studies of previous coverage expansions suggest that as more people get insurance, they will be more financially secure and, over the long run, less likely to die.
Meanwhile, the budget deficit is coming down, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Affordable Care Act has contributed significantly to that reduction. Overall health costs — i.e. what the U.S. as a whole spends on medical care — are rising at historically low rates. Nobody can be sure what role Obamacare has played in that progress — but it’s probably helped, and it certainly hasn’t hurt.
At this point it’s also worth going back to another point made by Cohn. Max Baucus was seen by many liberals is a villain in the process, and in certain ways he was. But the crucial facts are that 1)the most important progressive legislation since the Johnson administration got through his committee with his support, and 2)there’s no way a public option was getting 60 votes in the Senate even had it made it into the Finance Committee version of the bill. Particularly since in 1993 an inexplicably (or, come to think of it, all-too-explicably) well-regarded senator from New York in Baucus’s position didn’t merely throw health care reform into the wood chipper but was proudly indifferent about the issue, it’s not a trivial accomplishment and he deserves the credit he’s due.
It’s also worth comparing the above signing ceremony to the one I linked to earlier this weekend, which as I’m sure many of you knew was Bush signing the Partial-Birth Abortion (sic) Ban Act of 2003. It really is the two parties in a nutshell. Democrats want to use the federal government to do things like provide access to health care for millions of people over fanatical Republican opposition. Republicans want to use the federal government to impose health disabilities on women for no benefits whatsoever using justifications that can’t even be bothered to hide their sexism. But, you know, not a dime’s worth etc.