I think it’s important to remind ourselves that this is what has gotten Republicans so upset about ObamaCare, also known as the Affordable Care Act:
See that sharp reduction in the uninsured rate at far right of the chart? We just can’t have that — it’s simply intolerable. Our Republican co-citizens insist that the program that drove that stark reduction in the uninsured rate must be repealed by Congress; if it can’t be repealed by Congress, it must be reversed in the courts; if it can’t be repealed by Congress or reversed in the courts, it must be sabotaged and undermined in the states.
As the chart documents, the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in the early ’60s provided an important route to health care for millions of Americans. Republicans fought those programs viciously and even hysterically at the time, with people like Ronald Reagan warning that Medicare would result in the total loss of individual freedom, with the federal government dictating what jobs Americans could take and even where they would be allowed to live. (Yes, he was serious.) In some ways, that fight continues, with calls for the elimination of Medicaid continuing to sound from the right (see here and here and here and here, among others.)
A few other important points:
— As the chart documents, the percentage of Americans without health insurance had risen gradually and inexorably from 1980 to 2011, and throughout that time frame, Republicans continued to fight efforts to reverse that trend.
— According to data compiled by Gallup, the sharp downward movement in the uninsured rate has continued, with the uninsured rate falling by an additional full percentage point since the second quarter of 2014, the latest data available in the chart above.
— The uninsured rate would have fallen even more sharply if 22 states, including Georgia, had not refused to participate in Medicaid expansion.
— Because of the recalcitrance and outright animosity of state officials in Georgia, the uninsured rate in Georgia fell by only 2.3 percentage points in 2014, Gallup reports, compared to a decline of 10.6 percentage points in Kentucky and 11.1 points in Arkansas. In 2013, Georgia tied Oklahoma with the seventh highest uninsured rate in the country. By 2014, we had the second highest uninsured rate, behind only Texas. That’s progress, Georgia-style. Aren’t you proud?
— According to the latest projections by the Congressional Budget Office, an additional 5 million Americans will gain insurance coverage in 2015 thanks to the Affordable Care Act, driving that line further downward. That doesn’t account for the fact that at least six states that had previously rejected Medicaid expansion are now seriously considering it. Georgia is of course not among them.
— Most important, the data driving the charts above are not just numbers. They represent millions of our fellow Americans who now have regular access to health care needed to allow them to live longer, happier, healthier and more productive lives. It represents freedom to those people, freedom of a most basic sort. Most of those who have acquired insurance would not have been able to afford it otherwise. Many had pre-existing conditions — cancer, asthma, diabetes, etc. — that precluded coverage at almost any price. Many work full-time, but at jobs that simply do not offer such benefits or pay enough to allow insurance to be bought individually.
But according to Republicans, all of that must end, to be replaced by … what again?