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Obamacare Is Working, But Some Insurers Are Behaving Badly

Chris Schneider/Getty Images News

Obamacare got more good news early on Thursday morning. According to a survey from the Commonwealth Fund, the number of people without health insurance dropped by 9.5 million since late last summer. Throw in the young adults who got coverage previously, via their parents’ policies, and the total reduction in the uninsured looks an awful lot like what the experts predicted it would be. 

Reduction in the uninsured, according to Commonwealth Fund survey

It’s one survey, with a large margin of error, but the results line up nicely with previous findings from organizations like Gallup and the Urban Institute. You don’t have to put much stock in the specific figures to see that the Affordable Care Act is fulfilling one of its primary promises: To make sure more people have health insurance.

If you read QED’s writeup of the survey (the link is here) you’ll see that the Commonwealth Fund asked a bunch of other questions, including some on how those newly insured consumers felt about their policies. Overall, they seem quite happy. But I wouldn’t take that as the final word on how well the program is working for everybody, particularly given some of the other news items that have been popping up lately.

Perhaps the most alarming I’ve seen comes from Florida, where the AIDS Institute and National Health Law Program accuse four insurers of discriminating against customers and potential customers who are HIV-positive. According to an official complaint, filed with the Department of Health and Human Services, the insurers have structured their drug formularies in ways that make key HIV drugs much more expensive.

It could be coincidence, naturally, but the groups think it’s a deliberate effort to scare away customers that would run up high medical bills. It’s precisely the sort of trick that insurers have played for generations. And while the Affordable Care Act’s regulations are supposed to stop such practices, some insurers have undoubtedly found ways to circumvent and undermine the new rules.

Does this mean Obamacare is a bad deal for people with HIV? Of course not. Before the law, people with pre-existing conditions frequently had even worse coverage—or no insurance at all. But given the anecdotes and history of private insurance in America, it’s clear that state and federal officials need to be regulating the plans aggressively. In some places, I’m not sure they are.

Jonathan Cohn


Things to know:

IMMIGRATION: The most immediate policy question is whether Congress will give President Obama the $3.7 billion in emergency funding he’s requested—money that would help federal agencies for migrant children, while also expediting the hearing and deportation process. Obama made a public appeal for the bill during his visit to Texas, asking (some would say challenging) Governor Rick Perry to round up Republican support. (Edward-Isaac Dovere and Katie GlueckPolitico)

ECONOMY: The Federal Reserve is set to end its bond buying program in October, which means it’s getting (a bit) more confident about the economy’s strength. That’s a potentially big deal. (Jon Hilsenrath and Pedro Da CostaWall Street Journal)

LABOR: A coalition of liberal groups in the Bay Area are organizing local ballot measures to raise the minimum wage—and provided paid sick leave. Expect to see more of this, in more cities, in the next few years. (Josh Israel, ThinkProgress)

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: A Colorado judge tossed out the state’s ban on gay marriage. These stories are becoming redundant and predictable—and nothing could be more encouraging.  (Jordan SteffenDenver Post)

Things to read:

How Adrian got to America: A gorgeous, heartbreaking story of one child’s journey from Honduras, told by Ian Gordon(Mother Jones)

Almost nobody remembers why Sandra Fluke first became famous—or why her testimony on contraception is so relevant today. Lucia Graves provides a reminder. (National Journal)

Janet Yellen, they’re coming for you. House Republicans have introduced a new bill that would drastically reduce the independence of the Federal Reserve. Sarah Binder sketches out the disturbing implications. (Washington Post)

Things to watch:

With Obama still in Texas on Thursday, expect to hear and read a lot more about immigration. The issue isn’t going away.

Things to check out at QED:

Danny Vinik has proof that long-term unemployment is a national tragedy. Rebecca Leber has proof that climate change deniers are off in outer space.