Up And Down

More good news for the ACA. Hospital costs: Down! Insurance companies: Up! Premiums: Down!

Health Care Changes Point To More Good News For The Affordable Care Act

Remember that old health care law, the Affordable Care Act, that conservatives used to spend all their time disparaging? They’ve stopped talking about it and it’s media coverage has dropped, but there’s (even) more good news to report. Some pieces are going up, other pieces are going down, but it all means one thing: the Affordable Care Act is working.

DOWN: Hospital costs. A report released yesterday by the Department of Health and Human Services revealed that hospitals will save $5.7 billion in uncompensated care costs — money spent by hospitals on people who go to the emergency room and are unable to pay their bills. In particular, states that have opted to expand Medicaid through the ACA are benefiting the most: $4.2 billion of these savings, or 74 percent, come in states that expanded their Medicaid programs. Meanwhile, conservative leaders in 21 states have refused to expand, a move that is crippling hospitals in their states who aren’t benefiting from these savings.

UP: Number of insurers in the marketplace. HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a speech earlier this week that people looking to get health insurance on federal and state exchanges will have 25 percent more insurers to choose from than they did during last year’s open enrollment period. In some states, the number of insurers is doubling from 2014. Insurance companies are having more and more faith in the ACA marketplaces to attract customers, and they want a piece of the action. More competition is great news, both for people looking for more health insurance choices, and for premiums, which are…

DOWN: Premiums. Earlier this month, Kaiser Family Foundation released a study that shows health insurance premium rates across 15 states and DC would actually fall in 2015. As the chart below shows, the average premium change for those with the second-lowest-cost silver insurance plans (a typical plan) is -0.8 percent.

Kaiser concluded that this was due to increased competition in the marketplace and more people signing up for insurance through the exchanges in 2015. Even for those states in which premiums are rising, it is important to remember that given how fast premiums were rising before the ACA, in context many of these increases don’t actually look like increases.

BOTTOM LINE: The Affordable Care Act is working. With costs down for both hospitals and consumers, more competition, and not to mention 7.3 million people who are covered as a result of the law’s passage, it’s clear the law is already a success, whether conservatives want to talk about it or not.

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