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Opinion

Don't Miss Big Picture on Insurance

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A different kind of climate change was in the news this week, as the Gallup Poll reported the percentage of people who are uninsured declined rapidly from 17.1 percent to 15.9 percent in just three months.

That is a pretty substantial drop, and one that began when people started signing up for Obamacare. Gallup and others say it translates into an additional 3 million people who now have health insurance, consistent with the numbers of people signing up for Affordable Care Act coverage.

That’s good news for Obamacare – perhaps.

One of the more interesting – and sometimes frustrating – things about health policy is that like climate change, it unfolds slowly over time and so it is often difficult to see the change in climate while it is happening.

For one thing, there are always other variables.  For example, the unemployment rate has also gone down during this period, from 7.2 percent last October to 6.7 percent today. It is possible that some of these 3 million newly-insured people obtained insurance through employment, and would have gotten it anyway.

And there’s always the glass-half-empty view to consider.  Both the unemployment rate and the uninsured rate are just about back to where they were in 2008, right around the time that the economy was collapsing.  So most of the progress we’ve made so far amounts to dragging ourselves out of a deep hole.  We’re still just back to where we were before we fell in.

But if we look too closely at this, we miss the bigger picture.

(To read the entire column, go to Our Health Policy Matters.)