Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

January 3, 2014

Obamacare's payoff

It’s still unclear how well the Affordable Care Act will function. But on Wednesday, the law started working for a good chunk of those it was designed to help. The formerly uninsured who signed up for health-care plans under its provisions are now able to use their new coverage. As The Washington Post’s Lena H. Sun and Amy Goldstein reported Sunday, those people include Illinois financial consultant Adam Peterson, 50, who will be able to get long-needed gallbladder surgery, and Tennessee student Emily Wright, 28, who can have a specialist look at a suspicious mole.

Judging by the enrollment numbers the Obama administration released over the weekend, the stories of deferred care finally obtained will be repeated over and over in the coming months, and many others without pressing needs will have the peace of mind that comes with protection against financial ruin from major illnesses and injuries. After a December enrollment spike, more than 1 million people have chosen plans through HealthCare.gov, the once-dysfunctional federal Web site. About the same number have probably signed up on state-based marketplaces. And about 4 million poor Americans have enrolled in Medicaid, which is in the process of expanding.

Yet the painful truth is that, if it hadn’t been for the incompetent rollout of HealthCare.gov and resistance from Republican politicians, more people would have new coverage. Two million enrollments in private plans is behind the goal of 3.3 million the Obama administration set for Jan. 1. Though many more probably will enroll as the final deadline for 2014 coverage approaches, HealthCare.gov’s disastrous introduction both foiled people from signing up early and dissuaded others from trying at all. That’s on President Obama’s shoulders. On Republicans’ is their continuing refusal to expand Medicaid without reasonable cause in many of the states they control, leaving millions of poor Americans without access to affordable coverage.

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