In March, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office announced that ObamaCare enrollment had exceeded 7 million individuals – surpassing their own wildest expectations. Had the Supreme Court, in its landmark 2012 ruling upholding most provisions of the ACA not struck down provisions requiring states to accept the intended Medicaid expansion and the formation of individual state health exchanges, it's likely that millions more would already be signed up.
That may come to pass, anyway. Americans – particularly those who were previously uninsured or underinsured – are starting to like (or at least appreciate) aspects of the Affordable Care Act, even if some polls indicate otherwise.
So it appears the ACA may be morphing into a success story after all. Then again, four years after the health care reform bill was signed into law, public opinion and sentiments on the part of the business and HR communities seem to be mixed, at best. In other words, the jury's still out.
Consider some of the information being circulated about the ACA on the Internet and in the blogosphere:
• The Web site ObamaCare Facts offers up "Unbiased Facts about ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act), Health Care Reform and the Health Insurance Marketplace." Interestingly, one of the last lines on the site's home page reads "ObamaCare may not be perfect, but it does a lot to expand the average American's health care rights." Talk about a mixed review.
• A contributor to Forbes.com posts a blog a blog with the following blaring headline: "5.6M Small Businesses Blindsided by ObamaCare". The post argues that health insurance premiums for smaller firms (50 employees or fewer) that are exempt from providing their workers with health insurance (but choose to) are skyrocketing.
• The SHRM's Health Care Resource Page for HR professionals provides up-to-date detailed information on ACA compliance requirements and countless links to related articles and facts about ObamaCare. At the same time, the microsite contains cautionary headlines like "Study Finds High ACA Costs for Large Employers" and "Employees, Spouses Shoulder Costs."
And then there's BloombergBusinessweek's sobering headline, "Obamacare Isn't the Democrats' Biggest Problem. Slow Job Growth Is." This, of course, refers to the impending 2014 midterm elections, where six months ago the Republicans thought they had a lock on not only retaining control of the House but also likely winning back control of the Senate next fall, based on the failure of the ACA.
Now it seems the GOP may be rethinking its election strategy away from trying to repeal the act (after 44 unsuccessful attempts in Congress) to the economy's still-anemic job growth as their best chance for winning up-for-grabs seats in both Houses.
So where does that leave us? HR professionals are making elaborate preparations for their employees and organizations regarding implementation of the ACA starting in 2015. Indeed, many of the ACA's provisions have already kicked in and are in place.
Success stories and Democratic-funded ads debunking myths about Obamacare's disastrous effects on our national economy and on unfortunate victims of healthcare reform are making their way onto the airwaves and into political campaigns. Republicans appear to be shifting away from trying to defund a program that has already provided first-time health insurance for millions of Americans, and promises to continue growing through 2018 and beyond.
Indeed, by the time President Obama leaves office in early 2017 and the next president (of either party) is sworn in, it's likely that there will be no turning back. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay – at least until some individual or group of people come up with a more viable alternative. From this vantage point, that seems pretty unlikely in mid-2014.