States that support the Affordable Care Act are insuring significantly more of their residents than before, while states that oppose Obamacare are not. That is in essence the result of a survey released last week that demonstrates how political ideology can have a tangibly adverse effect on the lives of Americans.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that more Americans are getting health insurance, but while the number of uninsured has dropped by 4 percentage points in states that embraced the Affordable Care Act by expanding Medicaid and encouraging residents to enroll on-line, the number of uninsured dropped by only 2.2 percent in states that did neither. Kansas, a red state whose leaders have actively opposed the ACA, saw its percentage of uninsured go up from 12.5 percent to 17.6 percent from the middle of 2013 to the middle of this year. That means more residents suffering from illnesses and more costly health care for all Kansans, as those without health insurance are likely to end up in emergency rooms where care is expensive.
Massachusetts, which embraced health care reform years ahead of the federal government, stands apart statistically. Because of its pioneering efforts, Massachusetts had a nation-low percentage of 4.9 percent uninsured in 2013 (Hawaii was second at 7.1 percent), a figure it maintained exactly in the first half of 2014. Massachusetts now has something to shoot for, however, as Delaware, in fully embracing the ACA, dropped its uninsured rate from 10.5 percent to 3.
Arkansas and Kentucky, two southern states with traditionally little use for federal programs (with the exception of those that produce federal dollars), to their credit put ideology aside and reaped tangible benefits. Arkansas saw its rate of uninsured drop a nation-best 10.1 percent to 12.4 percent, while Kentucky’s rate dropped 8.5 percent to 11.9 percent. (The extensive survey interviewed 500 people a day for 350 days.)
The botched national roll-out of the Affordable Care Act cheered Republicans who were rooting for its failure, but the roll-out was not the Act, and the survey’s research director, Don Witters, told Associated Press that the states that persisted in making the health insurance exchange programs work so they could provide subsidized private coverage to those with no insurance experienced significant drops in the percentage of uninsured. States like Texas, which have spitefully refused to accept increased federal Medicaid dollars for ideological reasons, are punishing their poorest residents by denying them coverage, and illnesses and deaths almost assuredly have resulted. (Texas’ rate of uninsured actually dropped 3 percent over the past year -- to a shameful and still nation-worst 24 percent.)
It’s unfortunate that newly litigious conservatives are continuing to undermine the ACA in courthouses when it is clear it has tangible benefits for Americans. It is unfortunate that House Republicans wasted time on endless and pointless ACA repeal votes when they could have been helping address flaws and make improvements to an act that is the law of the land. And it is truly unfortunate that so many Republican governors and statehouses continue to jeopardize the health and lives of their residents to make partisan political points -- something that won’t change until red state voters open their eyes and minds and learn who their real enemy is (it isn’t President Obama.)
The Affordable Health Care works, the survey tells us, but only to the extent that elected officials across America allow it to work and encourage it to work. To do otherwise only hurts constituents.