Health Law Fails to Lower Prices for Rural Areas was the lead headline in the 10/24/13 New York Times. The article highlights the fact that in more than half of 2500 rural counties, health insurance plans are offered by only one or two carriers. The lack of competition has thus far failed to lower consumer costs.
But such an article diverts attention from the real issues. Yes, competition is severely limited in many regions across the U.S., particularly in the South. It will take time to redress the many inequities that persist from the pre–Affordable Care Act (ACA) era. Of course, the ACA rollout began only several weeks ago. Realistically, such a massive undertaking will be accompanied by numerous initial failures. The technical shortcomings, such as lack of ability to obtain coverage via the online systems, are still being hyped in every media outlet. But as the Nobel Prize–winning economist, Paul Krugman, observed in his 10/3/13 New York TimesOp-Ed column, Reform Turns Real, the glitches won’t matter in the long run.
Health care reform has been a very long time coming in the United States. Tremendously powerful special interests have been arrayed against such reform for decades. That we have any progress at all in this area is due to the vision and persistence of President Obama and his allies in the Cabinet and Congress. Enactment of the ACA is also due, in large part, to the efforts of President Clinton and his staff in the early 1990s. The ACA contains numerous policy errors and the act is extraordinarily complex. Compromises were effected on both sides of the aisle in order to obtain passage of the bill. Regardless, the ACA is law and will be of benefit to every American, not the least to those 50 million of us, predominantly women and children, who have been without health insurance coverage for many, many years.