The Affordable Care Act, like every landmark piece of legislation in modern times, has faced its share of trials. Getting it through Congress was nearly impossible, and the law was very nearly killed by the Republican appointees on the U.S. Supreme Court.
But with the law now secure and President Obama re-elected, there's one more major challenge for "Obamacare" to overcome: the implementation hurdle. As we discussed several weeks ago, this is at least as big a hurdle as the others, and more than a few observers have raised the prospect of a "train wreck." Even those who generally defend the law are worried.
They are, however, a little less worried today. As Matt Yglesias explained, implementation of the law is "fundamentally" going quite well.
The latest evidence comes to us today from California, America's largest state and one of the states that's tried the hardest to actually implement Obamacare. As Sarah Kliff explains, their exchanges are getting set up, and it looks like premiums for "silver" and "bronze" plans are both going to be lower than was previously expected. Far from a "train wreck," in other words, the biggest single set of clients for the program is getting something like a nice, smooth high-speed train ride.
There was also good news from Oregon recently, where insurers that had initially come in with high premium bids are now asking to resubmit with cheaper offerings in the face of competition. And the Affordable Care Act's goal of slowing the growth in aggregate health expenditures is also coming true.
Yep, at least for now, everything anti-ACA Republicans predicted -- on premiums, on competition, on exchanges, on escalating costs -- is proving to be the opposite of reality.
Now, because of state-by-state differences, there will be quite a bit of variety in outcomes. If you live in California or another state dominated by Democratic officials, you'll likely have a very positive impression of how the law is being implemented, and how it benefits you, your family, and your community.
If you live in, say, Texas, you're likely to have a very different kind of experience.
As Jonathan Cohn explained this morning:
Unfortunately, millions of uninsured and under-insured Americans live in places like Florida and Texas, where there is far less sympathy -- and a great deal more hostility -- to the idea of Obamacare. It's entirely possible that the insurance bids in those states will be a lot higher, precisely because state officials there are doing nothing to help and quite a bit to hurt implementation. But if that happens, blame won't belong with the heath care law or the federal officials in charge of its management. It will belong with the state officials who can't, or won't, deliver to their constituents the benefits that California's officials appear to be providing theirs.
It's not necessarily an explicitly partisan matter -- I'm not saying that Democrats are necessarily better at health care governance. Rather, the point is, Democrats don't have an ideological axe to grind when it comes to trying to sabotage federal health care law. Rick Perry, however, does.
To be sure, these red-state residents won't be left out entirely, and they'll still benefit from all kinds of consumer protections and expanded access that they'll really appreciate, even if they don't yet realize the available benefits. But the full benefits of implementation will elude them for a while in ways blue-state residents won't have to deal with.
Regardless, the news out of California is a bit of a breakthrough, and heartening news for anyone hoping to see the Affordable Care Act succeed. For more on this, also take a look at the reports this morning from Klein, Krugman, and Beutler.