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November 14, 2013 10:36 AM Golden (State) Lining

By Ed Kilgore

There are many times where politics here in my adopted state of California defy national patterns (e.g., the solid showing of Democrats in 2010). This is one of those moments, it seems, as the rollout of California’s state exchange for the purchase of insurance under the Affordable Care Act is going a lot better than you’d guess from the national exchange numbers, per this report from Lou Cannon at RCP:

Covered California, the state health care exchange, enrolled 30,830 people during its first month of operation, more than the 27,000 the federal government signed up in the 36 states combined where it is running the exchanges.
The California enrollment number is only the tip of the iceberg. According to data released Wednesday by the California Department of Health Services, 370,000 people began applications for health care, most of them on Covered California’s website, which has functioned relatively smoothly — particularly in comparison to the troubled federal site. Of these, 86,000 were determined to be eligible for coverage on the exchange and another 72,000 for Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health care for the poor.
The Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is formally known, badly needs a success story. California, the first state to create its own exchange after the law was passed in 2010, is the most promising candidate, according to those familiar with its workings.
“The numbers are better than encouraging,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee…. “They show momentum and very high consumer interest.”
His optimism was echoed by insurance companies and consumer groups.

I’d note the balance between private insurance exchange and Medicaid enrollments is another good sign, and much more in line with original expectations than what we are seeing nationally.

Turns out it really does help to have a state government led by people who aren’t trying to sabotage the law. And it seems the argument that something as complex as the exchanges was doomed to failure from the very beginning doesn’t accord with what’s happening on the ground out here. That’s something to keep in mind as opportunistic Republicans and panicky Democrats play with “fixes” that might blow the whole thing up, even in places like California where it ain’t much broke.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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