Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Catch of the Day to Sarah Kliff, who wrote “Obamacare just might net its 7 million sign-ups” … at the end of December. Impressive! It’s still worth reading. As is another of hers earlier that month:

As a reporter who has covered the Affordable Care Act, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to uninsured Americans. Aside from the daily federal updates and traffic statistics, it’s been one of the more helpful ways to understand how the health-care law is working — and what its rocky rollout will mean.
And what I've learned from all those discussions is this: The people shopping on HealthCare.gov are incredibly, unwaveringly persistent in their attempts to purchase coverage.

Fast forward to yesterday, and here’s Amy Fried making the key point about the reasons this has occurred: Most ordinary people want health insurance, given the opportunity.

Still, the only thing that’s been established so far is that the Affordable Care Act exchanges should be minimally functional. Virtually no one was concerned about that when the program started.

We still don’t know how well the exchanges will work. The hope is that, through the magic of market competition, heavily regulated insurance companies will wind up strongly benefiting consumers in all sorts of ways. People who believed in the exchange mechanism thought it would work better than a single-payer system because profit-seeking insurance companies would do a better job than the government -- as long as the companies couldn't continue the nasty practices they traditionally used to make money. That was the substantive reason (as opposed to the legislative and electoral politics reasons) for supporting ACA-like legislation.

After all, no one suggested that the current mix of Medicare, Medicaid, government-run exchanges for buying private insurance, and continuing government subsidies for employer-linked insurance was the most efficient way to ensure full coverage. But it’s also true that no one suggested until long after Obamacare became law that it would fail because people wouldn’t buy insurance.

So permit the administration a little crowing today, and feel free to mock opponents who predicted instant doom. Just remember that we’re a long way from knowing whether the ACA is actually going to work as supporters wanted.

Meanwhile? Nice catch!

To contact the writer of this article: Jonathan Bernstein at Jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net.