In the Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 250 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week: taking a look at enrollment figures for the Affordable Care Act. This is The Two Minute Drill for Friday, April 4, 2014.
President Obama announced Tuesday that 7.1 million Americans have signed up for health care plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Democrats hailed the announcement as a tremendous success; Republicans, in contrast, mocked the administration and accused the White House of “cooking the books.” “This is a phony number, and it’s wonderfully precise,” conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier.” What does the 7 million mark mean for the health law?
The Explanation (250 or Bust)
Last May, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that enrollment in the taxpayer-subsidized private exchanges would be 7 million. But in February, amid still-lagging enrollment numbers (by then, only 4.2 million people had signed up for insurance through the exchanges), the CBO revised that number down to 6 million. Momentum appeared to be sagging.
Hitting the 7 million mark by the March 31 deadline, therefore, is an important milestone for the ACA. And it presents a significant challenge to Republicans still calling for full repeal. Even if the law remains unpopular, Republicans will have to deal with the fact that millions of Americans would have their health care coverage disrupted by repeal.
Despite that, the figure is largely symbolic. And its certainly not as important as you may think.
The last-minute surge in enrollment is consistent with previous efforts to enroll Americans in government-run health care programs. More importantly, however, are the many questions that remain unanswered. How many of the seven million were previously uninsured? How sick or healthy are the people who signed up? Will all of the new enrollees pay their premiums? What about people who signed up outside of the marketplaces?
Getting the answers to these questions will require some patience. One thing, however, is clear: while it may be premature to declare the ACA a success, the scenario advanced by conservative opponents of the ACA – that the law would “implode,” “collapse” or “unravel” – is becoming more and more unlikely.
Word Count: 248
The Five Most Interesting Things We’ve Read This Week
Here are the five most interesting articles (both political and non-political) we’ve read this week:
- “In 2012, military suicides reached a record 351, surpassing the number of troops who died in Afghanistan that year.” From The Desert Sun: Ending It All by Their Own Hand: Corps Probes Marine Suicides, Hoping to Halt A “Trajectory toward Death.”
- “The sun was shining on a brisk January day when Leland Yee took a seat at an undisclosed San Francisco coffee shop. Across from him sat a Cosa Nostra crime boss . . . In truth, the coffee shop tete-a-tete was a trap. The mob boss sitting across the table from Yee was actually an undercover FBI agent wired with a recording device, according to documents filed this week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, part of an elaborate sting that snared the politician.” From Medium: “Uncle Leland”: Political Ambition and Debt Put California State Senator on Collision Course with FBI in Five-Year Corruption Sting.
- “It was the last day of school vacation week. The weather looked promising. A perfect day to hit the playground, to ready a backyard garden for spring. Vacationing families were on their way home, their fridges empty, planning to pick up takeout for dinner. But this was not that kind of Friday.” From The Boston Globe: How the Marathon Bombing Manhunt Really Happened.
- “The program you are about to see . . . seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show – in a mature fashion – just how absurd they are.” That was the nervous disclaimer that ran under the credits of All in the Family when it first appeared in 1971. From The New Yorker: The Great Divide: Norman Lear, Archie Bunker, and the Rise of the Bad Fan.
- “His team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide their network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using Cayman Island bank accounts, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company’s ties to the U.S. government.” From The AP: US Secretly Created “Cuban Twitter” to Stir Unrest.
And in case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. This past week explained the importance of the individual mandate for the success of health care reform in the United States. Read the Column – The Importance of the Individual Mandate.