The joke's on the GOP

The joke's on the GOP

April 1st, 2014 in Opinion Times

Erodq Vilza waits by a laptop as she tries sign her father-in-law up for health insurance before the Affordable Care Act deadline Monday.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

The sky is falling. It will snow tonight. State and congressional lawmakers will soon tell nothing but the truth, and the newspaper will only report good news.

April Fool's!

OK, now that we have that taken care of, let's talk real news.

More than 14 million people, including millions who didn't have health insurance this time last year, now have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Despite every roadblock Republicans could throw in front of a program that in future years likely will be as popular as Social Security, the drive to sign up 7 million people on the ACA's health-insurance exchanges the first year is very, very close to becoming a reality.

It was slow, yes. Especially with the sign-up website problems in October and November when just over 350,000 were able to register online or enroll by telephone. But as the website improved and the March 31 deadline loomed, January and February each saw sign-ups at or above the one-million mark. And in March, as of last Thursday, nearly 2 million more got insurance through the exchanges. Last week alone, received 2.5 million calls.

Remember last fall when Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, was asked what success would look like in the program's first year (before the roll-out glitches)?

"Success looks like at least 7 million signed up by end of March, 2014," she said.

Then came the glitches, the Congressional Budget Office's lowered expectation of 6 million sign-ups and finally a 15-day enrollment extension for folks who have at least begun the effort to get enrolled by the March 31 deadline.

It now appears that initial 7 million number may actually happen.

But that's not the best or biggest news about the Affordable Care Act.

Add to that 6-plus million or 7 million enrolled in the federal insurance exchanges another 4.5 million previously uninsured people who have been added via state Medicaid expansions in the states that are using our tax dollars well. And another 3 million young adults under 27 are now covered again on their parents' insurance plans. Those are millions who won't be making our health care costs continue to skyrocket when they use emergency rooms as a doc-in-a-box or who go untreated for something minor until it becomes something major.

Already, the ACA is helping to decrease health-care costs and Medicare costs. A Congressional Budget Office report states seniors have saved $10 billion on prescriptions. And the premiums offered on the exchanges were 50 percent lower than what the CBO first predicted.

The report also says it will reduce the deficit by $1.7 trillion over next 20 years.

And this is just the first year of a multi-year push.

All of this, the GOP has booed. The House Republicans have voted more than 50 times to repeal "Obamacare."

Now by making those hollow votes, they will be talking about taking all this away from at least 14 million people -- and soon to be many more.

The GOPers will have to retool their talking points. They'll be forced to come up with credible alternatives.

Now that is an April Fool's Day joke worth telling.