Here’s How Obamacare ‘So Far Is an Expansion of Medicaid’

71% of Obamacare Signups Traced to Government’s Expansion of Medicaid

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The vast majority of Americans gaining health coverage under Obamacare actually qualified for Medicaid because of loosened eligibility —and that’s what boosted enrollment among those previously uninsured, according to a new report from The Heritage Foundation.

The Obama administration has boasted that the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, would allow those previously uninsured to purchase quality, affordable health care.

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“The inescapable conclusion is that, when it comes to covering the uninsured, Obamacare so far is an expansion of Medicaid,” Heritage Foundation health policy experts Edmund F. Haislmaier and Drew Gonshorowski write in a research paper scheduled for release today.

Officials announced in May that more than 8 million Americans had picked a health plan on the Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov.

Haislmaier and Gonshorowski conclude that 8.5 million Americans gained coverage through Obamacare from January to July.

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However, their paper says, more than 70 percent of those signups can be traced to the expansion of Medicaid eligibility in 24 states:

Of the 8.5 million total individuals who gained health insurance coverage, 71 percent of that net coverage gain was attributable to Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to able-bodied, working-age adults.

In the states that adopted and implemented Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, enrollment skyrocketed as an additional 5.7 million Americans signed up for coverage.

In 21 states opting out of Medicaid expansion, however, enrollment was strikingly lower. The Heritage report finds that 355,674 Americans signed up for Medicaid in those states.

In all, Medicaid enrollment increased by 6 million individuals for the first half of 2014.

The Daily Signal is the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation.

The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, loosened eligibility requirements for Medicaid, traditionally the government’s health program for the poor. The changes made it easier for individuals with an income of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line (roughly $16,000) to qualify for the taxpayer-funded health coverage.

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As the Heritage experts note, many Medicaid-eligible Americans under the new requirements also don’t have dependent children.

States got an incentive–federal dollars–to adopt the requirements.

Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia opted to expand Medicaid. By July, however, 24 states had implemented the program.

The Affordable Care Act went into effect in October. Its implementation included the rollout of HealthCare.gov, the online marketplace where consumers can peruse and purchase insurance plans.

HealthCare.gov’s advent was accompanied by well-publicized malfunctions, glitches and failures. White House officials scrambled to fix the website as consumers experienced long delays. As a result, the Obama administration extended the close of open enrollment from March 30 until April 15.

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Despite the rocky rollout of HealthCare.gov, President Obama and then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius touted that enrollment in Obamacare insurance plans topped the original goal of 7 million.

According to reports from the Department of Health and Human Services, enrollment likely hovered around 7.3 million, as original estimates took into account those who selected a plan, but did not pay their first month’s premiums.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who in June replaced Sebelius as HHS secretary, said in a speech last month at the Brookings Institute:

Four years after President Obama signed the law, middle class families have more security, and many who already had insurance have better coverage. Fewer Americans are uninsured, and at the same time, we’re spending our health care dollars more wisely, and we’re starting to receive higher quality care.

The Democratic Panic

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After a few days of trying to ignore the question, Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate for the United States Senate in Georgia, acknowledged on Friday that she had voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. By this year’s standards, that’s pretty forthright, especially compared with Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat running for the Senate in Kentucky, who refuses to discuss her presidential vote.

After a few days of trying to ignore the question, Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate for the United States Senate in Georgia, acknowledged on Friday that she had voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. By this year’s standards, that’s pretty forthright, especially compared with Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat running for the Senate in Kentucky, who refuses to discuss her presidential vote.

Only one Democratic Senate candidate this cycle has been willing to appear with the president on the stump: Gary Peters in Michigan. The others have spent months keeping their distance from Mr. Obama and some of his best policies. Even Ms. Nunn just started running a television ad complaining that an attack ad by her Republican opponent, David Perdue, featured a misleading photo of her and Mr. Obama. The photo was actually taken at an event honoring President George H.W. Bush, she said.

The panicky Democratic flight away from President Obama — and from some of the party’s most important positions — is not a surprise. Mr. Obama remains highly unpopular among white voters, particularly in Southern states where candidates like Ms. Nunn, Ms. Grimes and several others are struggling to establish leads. But one of the reasons for his unpopularity is that nervous members of his own party have done a poor job of defending his policies over the nearly six years of his presidency, allowing a Republican narrative of failure to take hold.

Few voters know that the 2009 stimulus bill contributed heavily to the nation’s economic recovery, saving and creating 2.5 million jobs. Not a word of it is spoken on the campaign trail, where little credit is also given to the White House for months of promising economic news.

Similarly, the Affordable Care Act, one of the most far-reaching and beneficial laws to have been passed by Congress in years, gets little respect even among the Democratic candidates who voted for it. Though none support the Republican position of repeal, most talk about the need to “fix” the health law, as if it were a wreck alongside the road rather than a vehicle providing millions of people with health coverage.

“When I think about the health care law, frustrated, disappointed, you can put a lot of words toward it, but every day I work to try to fix it,” said Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, in a radio ad. (Mr. Begich voted for the law.) In a recent debate, Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat of North Carolina, talked mostly about the “common-sense fixes” she wants to make to the law.

Several Democratic candidates, including Ms. Hagan, Ms. Nunn, and Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, quickly adopted the right-wing talking point that President Obama needs to impose a travel ban on all residents of African countries with Ebola cases, even though most public-health experts say such a ban would be ineffective and could make the situation worse.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who has fought loudly against the president’s energy policies, has scurried so far to the right that she even opposes legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, though her leading Republican opponent supports it.

Many of these candidates are running in difficult political environments and are being careful about what they say or don’t say in hopes of preserving Democratic control of the Senate. They run the risk, though, of alienating important constituencies who prefer a party with a spine, especially black voters, who remain very supportive of Mr. Obama. By not standing firmly for their own policies, Democrats send a message to voters that the unending Republican criticism of the president is legitimate. There is much that is going right in this country, and there is still time for Democrats to say so.