Affordable Care Act has significantly increased the number of Americans with health insurance.
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By Robert Weiner and Brendan Agnew
Unchallenged at the latest Republican debate, all candidates said they would repeal the Affordable Care Act. Not asked by the moderators were any questions about new studies that confirm the ACA has significantly increased the number of Americans with insurance coverage, created jobs, and reduced the deficit. When candidates call Obamacare a "job killer," where are mentions of the more than 300,000 healthcare jobs the act added in 2014 alone because of millions of new people given health care? Or the increase in health insurance coverage in every state of the union, or people living longer?
What are even more seldom mentioned by the critics are the benefits of the ACA to low-income and minority communities. Harlem, for example, which is home to some of Manhattan's poorest neighborhoods and countless other communities like it have seen sharp decreases in the uninsured rate since the act's passage.
1.2 million more people received Medicaid coverage in New York City this year under the ACA's expanded Medicaid. The ACA also played a role in the City's 2014 employment boom. Of 105,100 jobs added in the City last year, 30,000 were in the health care sector, the largest job gain of any industry.
This year also saw 2.3 million African American adults nationwide gaining healthcare coverage. There was a 10.3 percent decrease in the uninsured number. While all racial minority groups saw significant gains, African Americans proportionately reaped the most benefits of the ACA.
In New York, some of this can be attributed to ACA grants to the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education programs, which allows medical students to work directly in communities with little to no access to proper health care. Harlem's Institute for Family Health, which provides physical and behavioral healthcare and dental service to low-income Harlem residents, last year received $4,800, 000 in grants thanks to the ACA. The institute and other clinics in the city have relied on such grants to extend care to thousands of New Yorkers.
If the Act were repealed, the loss of tax revenue and economic activity from the public sector jobs the Act has created would be costly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 311,000 jobs were added in the healthcare sector in 2014. In fact, as manufacturing jobs have moved overseas, health care is America's biggest source of new jobs because of the millions of new beneficiaries with new or expanded coverage. According to CBO, by making healthcare less expensive for hospitals and individuals, the ACA is projected to save more than $200 billion over the next ten years and a trillion dollars over the next ten.
When opponents say, "costs are going up," they conveniently neglect that for the decade before Obamacare passed, insurance premiums went up more than 10% each year -- a whopping 137 percent total. Now however, they are either down or few percentage points higher each year since passage.
Since October 2010, after the ACA's passage, the United States has enjoyed 60 straight months -- five years -- of employment growth. This represents the country's longest job-growth streak since World War II. Additionally, 2014 saw the strongest job growth in the United States since 1999.
The Act's biggest triumph has been in providing eighteen million more Americans with access to health insurance. The Census Bureau found that last year, every state in the United States experienced an increase in the percentage of people with health care coverage.
As a way to bash the President, the ACA will apparently remain an inevitable talking point as the Republican primary approaches. It is unlikely that any of the candidates will admit to its proven successes. Senator Ted Cruz promises in debates to "through regulatory reform, repeal every word" of the Act. Trump, Christie, Carson, and others mention "repealing" or "replacing" Obamacare, including Trump's November radio ads just out. So much for the millions who, now insured, create the record low uninsured rate. Yet it's not likely that even a President Trump, Carson, Cruz, or Rubio would have enough "chutzpah" to take away any or better coverage from tens of millions if elected.
Robert Weiner is a former spokesman for the Clinton White House, former Chief of Staff of the House Aging Committee and Health Subcommittee, and was senior staff for Reps. John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Claude Pepper, Ed Koch and Sen. Edward Kennedy. Brendan Agnew is Economic Policy Analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.