- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A survey released Wednesday says the uninsured rate has declined more significantly in states that fully embraced Obamacare than in states that did not, a finding that, while unsurprising, could buoy Democrats in the short-term as they work to overcome the health law’s rocky rollout and retain vulnerable Senate seats this fall.

The uninsured rate this year dropped an average of 2.5 percent points in the 21 states, plus the District, that expanded their Medicaid programs and ran all or part of their new insurance exchanges, according to the Gallup survey. This is compared to a 0.8-point decrease in the 29 states that rejected one or both pillars of the Affordable Care Act.

Gallup says the states that chose to expand Medicaid and set up their own marketplaces had a lower average uninsured rate to begin with, at 16.1 percent compared to 18.7 in the other states. That gap widened to 4.3 percentage points in the first quarter of 2014.

“While a majority of Americans continue to disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, also known as ‘Obamacare,’ the uninsured rate appears to be declining, as the law intended,” according to Gallup.

After a disastrous web launch last fall, President Obama and his supporters are touting surveys and reports that suggest the law is heading in the right direction.

Last week, the White House celebrated 7.5 million sign-ups on the law’s federal and state health exchanges during the six-month enrollment period that ended March 31.

Additional people are finishing up their applications this month, after the Obama administration and several states let consumers pick plans through Tuesday or later. And two exchanges, in Hawaii and the District, have decided to extend their deadline from April 15 to April 30.

Republicans say the extensions are symptomatic of an incurable law, that millions of consumers have not paid for their coverage and actually enrolled and that those who did pay up will see high out-of-pocket costs and narrower provider networks.

The GOP also says it is working on a comprehensive alternative to Obamacare, but it is unclear if House Republicans will put a plan to a vote before the November elections.

Meanwhile, Democratic aides were quick to tweet out a Reuters/Ipsos poll Wednesday that found nearly a third of respondents prefer the Democrats’ “plan, policy or approach” to health care compared to just 18 percent for Republicans — a positive bump for Democrats and a decline for Republicans since a similar poll in February.

However, one-fifth of respondents could not say which party had a better plan, and another fifth said neither party did, according to Reuters.

The numbers reflect some of the confusion and ambivalence that have surrounded Mr. Obama’s law, as it remains a political liability for Senate Democrats up for re-election in states where the reforms remain unpopular.

In some states, officials just want their Obamacare websites to work.

Minnesota on Wednesday became the latest state to ask Deloitte to stabilize and manage its state-run portal before sign-ups begin again this fall.

The exchange, known as MNsure, inked a nine-month contract worth $4.95 million with the consulting company, which is quickly becoming the go-to vendor for states that encountered web glitches during the initial enrollment period from October to March.

“The health insurance exchanges Deloitte designed and developed for Kentucky, Connecticut, Rhode Island and the state of Washington have enrolled hundreds of thousands of people and become national models of simple design, effective technology, and stable websites,” MNsure said in a press release. “In fact, Deloitte is the only vendor that successfully implemented more than one state exchange by the October 1, 2013 deadline.”

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