About 1.2 million Americans have enrolled in new health care options since October 1, according to figures released by the federal government on Wednesday, illustrating the controversial Affordable Care Act is providing health insurance to some Americans despite the struggles of HealthCare.gov.
The Department of Health and Human Services said that 365,000 Americans across the country have signed up to purchase private health insurance plans over the last two months, while more than 800,000 were determined eligible for Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program under expansions of those programs under the health care law.
“I’ve been without insurance for so long I don’t think I realized what it does to the psyche–those thoughts lurking in the background ‘what if I get a serious illness or have an accident.’ So I am relieved and soooo appreciative of this,” said Sherry Barnett, an Atlanta woman who has long been without insurance because she has a pre-existing health condition told me via e-mail after enrolling this week in a health care plan by using HealthCare.gov.
The numbers illustrate, as Obama and his team have long argued, that there is strong demand from many Americans for health insurance. At the same time, it’s not clear that 16 million Americans will enroll in new health care options by the end of next year, as the administration had initially hoped for. Nor does the data show how many young and health people are enrolling in the plans, a critical question as the administration does not insurance companies to receive a glut of patients through “Obamacare” who are predominantly either older or have illnesses, leading the companies to increase premiums in 2014.
The data shows the huge influence that state governments are having in the process. In Kentucky, where the Democratic governor Steve Beshear has been a huge backer of the health care law, about 66,000 people have enrolled in health insurance over the last two months. But in Texas, where Republican Gov. Rick Perry is a leading “Obamacare” opponent, only about 30,000 have. This is a huge discrepancy, particularly when you consider that an estimated 6 million people in Texas are uninsured, compared to about 600,000 in Kentucky.