Health care is Obama’s biggest achievement, but will it last?

Jan 06, 2017

(This article from PolitiFact is reprinted here because of a collaboration between Reboot Illinois and the Pulitzer Prize-winning national website PolitiFact. For fact checks reported as part of this partnership, visit the PolitiFact Illinois website.)

It might go down as President Barack Obama’s signature achievement or his greatest disappointment: sweeping health care legislation aimed at bringing coverage to every U.S. citizen while reshaping the industry with a focus on healthy outcomes.

The plan Obama signed looks, in its broadest outlines, like what he campaigned on: expanding the current system by creating insurance marketplaces, expanding Medicaid for the poor, adding consumer-friendly protections and making investments in electronic health records and innovative medicine.

Its greatest success has been a huge expansion of coverage. More Americans today have health insurance — coverage reaches 90.9 percent of the country — than ever before. That’s roughly 20 million people who didn’t have insurance before the law.

But the law failed in important respects, too.

It didn’t save people money. Obama campaigned on a promise of lowering premiums, but that hasn’t happened, and PolitiFact rated it Promise Broken. (The best he could say is that premiums didn’t rise as fast as they used to.)

The law also became a marker of Obama’s failure to bring Democrats and Republicans together. Nearly seven years after passage, Republicans in Congress oppose it, and President-elect Donald Trump said he intends to repeal and replace it. Polling suggests Republicans and Democrats are more divided on health care than ever. Roughly equal numbers of people say they oppose the law (45 percent) as support it (43 percent).

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