"But we've also always known -- and I have always said -- that for all the good that the Affordable Care Act is doing right now -- for as big a step forward as it was -- it's still just a first step."
-- President Obama, 2016
There's widespread agreement across the country that Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), isn't perfect. While the Democratic party is interested in improving it, the Republican party would rather scrap it. Many on either side of the debate would do well to know more about the program, so here are 16 stats about it -- many of which might surprise you.
Confusion, support, and disapproval
35%: According to a recent survey by Morning Consult, 35% of people questioned either didn't realize that the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing, or weren't sure about it.
45%: The same survey found that 45% of respondents didn't realize that if Obamacare were repealed, the ACA would be repealed, too.
60%: The confusion over the name is a big deal. For example, the founder of Morning Consult also noted that while 80% of Republicans strongly disapprove of Obamacare, only 60% strongly disapprove of the ACA.
54%: According to a Pew Research Center survey, support for the ACA has risen over the years since it was introduced in 2010 and recently hit an overall high of 54%, with support not surprisingly much higher among Democrats and much lower among Republicans.
Millions and millions served
57 million: There were about 57 million Americans without health insurance before the ACA took effect.
26 million: As of early 2017, there were just 26 million uninsured Americans -- reflecting 33 million more people now covered.
8.6%: Last year, the percentage of Americans without health insurance dropped to a record low of 8.6%, down sharply from 16% in 2010.
80%-plus: More than 80% of people who enroll through the exchanges receive a subsidy to help them afford their premiums.
77%: It's estimated that about 77% of enrollees have been able to secure coverage for less than $100 per month, thanks to subsidies.
63%-plus: When you drill down to the particular provisions of the ACA, most Americans are strongly in favor of most of them. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's research, as of late 2016, for example, 63% or more of Republicans had favorable opinions of the following provisions: allowing kids to stay on parents' plans until age 26; requiring preventive services to be available at no out-of-pocket cost; creating exchanges, where people can shop for plans; offering financial assistance to lower-income people so they can afford coverage; allowing states to expand Medicaid to more people; raising taxes on wealthier Americans to help fund healthcare; and not allowing insurers to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Fully 75% or more of Democrats favored each of these, too.
40%: According to actuaries, our health insurance system needs about 40% of enrollees to be in the 18-to-34 age range, as they're less likely to need costly healthcare services, and their premiums can offset the cost of paying for those with greater needs and more expensive care. Younger people have been slow to sign up for coverage, though, and were recently only 27% of enrollees.
$872.01: While most Americans get relief for premium costs via subsidies, millions of Americans still don't. For those people -- who earn about $48,000 or more annually -- the average silver plan (i.e., a mid-level plan) will cost $365 per month for a 30-year-old, $411 for a 40-year-old, $574 for a 50-year-old, and a whopping $872 for a 60-year-old. That's clearly still a hefty burden for anyone to bear, with the 60-year-old facing annual health insurance premiums of $10,464.
A repeal reveal
30 million: According to the Urban Institute, if the ACA is repealed without a replacement, close to 30 million Americans may lose coverage. If that seems high, it's because a total repeal is expected to greatly disrupt the individual coverage market.
$883 billion: The passage of the ACA raised taxes, largely on wealthier Americans, and a repeal of the law would represent a massive tax cut for them -- of about $883 billion. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about $274 billion of the break would go to the richest 2% of Americans, while $880 billion would be taken from Medicaid.
$1.2 trillion: Government spending would drop by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, as that $880 billion annual Medicare funding would be gone.
3,500%: As of this writing, the latest GOP proposal for an ACA replacement -- dubbed "Trumpcare" by some -- would maintain the ACA's requirement that insurers offer coverage to people with pre-existing conditions (in the past, many people were refused). But it would permit them to charge those folks higher premiums. The Center for American Progress has estimated, for example, that those with metastatic cancer or asthma would face premium surcharges of 3,500% and 106%, respectively, costing them about $140,000 or $4,300 more, respectively.
The bottom line is that healthcare in America is extremely complicated, with many interconnected and interdependent parts -- and it's not easy to put together a plan that achieves all desired outcomes, such as affordability and good coverage. The ACA is imperfect, but in the years ahead it's likely to undergo changes -- for better or worse. If you feel strongly about it, one way or another, consider letting your representatives in Congress know.