Skip to main content

Patience, Obamacare will work

By Sally Kohn, Special to CNN
updated 6:42 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sally Kohn: Health exchange site fix is easy; getting Americans covered is hard
  • She says hundreds of thousands have enrolled for insurance under Obamacare
  • She says law has brought insurance protections, kept 3.4 million young people insured
  • Kohn: Many government programs have rough start. The goal is worthy and in sight

Editor's note: Sally Kohn is a progressive activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter at @sallykohn

(CNN) -- You know what's relatively easy? Fixing a website. You know what's really hard? Ensuring access to affordable, quality health insurance for every single American and improving our broken health care system in the process. In the back-and-forth about the Obamacare exchange websites, let's not lose sight of the ultimate goal of health care reform -- a goal that, even with the exchanges problems, we are steadily achieving.

Less than 17 days into the signup period, the State of Oregon had already enrolled 56,000 people under the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare -- and reduced the state's percentage of uninsured by 10%. In New York, over 150,000 people have signed up for a private insurance plan through the state's exchange website -- including, by the way, me. In Kentucky, a state that has more than 640,000 residents without health insurance, the state insurance exchange is signing up 1,000 people per day, "a great rate and a great success so far" says Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

In Washington State, 31,000 people have enrolled in Medicaid coverage, 4,500 have enrolled in private health plans and an additional 56,000 state residents have completed applications. Other states, especially those that worked to implement their own insurance exchanges and expand Medicaid under the health reform law, are seeing similar success -- contrasted with those states that have, mainly for ideological reasons, sabotaged implementation.

Sally Kohn
Sally Kohn

And even still, the increased access to insurance through private market exchanges and Medicaid expansion is only one aspect of the larger reform law.

Already, 3.4 million young Americans have been able to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26. Already, millions of Americans have benefited from the ban on insurance companies denying coverage because of preexisting conditions, a ban that will take full effect next year. Already, we're all benefiting from the law ending lifetime and annual limits on the amount of coverage health insurance provides, and ending the practice of insurance companies' arbitrarily canceling coverage in the wake of catastrophic illness.

The Obamacare exchange websites can run fast as lightning or slow as molasses but, regardless, these reforms are already helping millions of Americans automatically. No hitting reset required.

It's also helpful to put the exchange websites into some perspective. We're a little over one-tenth of the way through the current enrollment period. People have until December 15 to complete their applications if they want coverage to begin on January 1, 2014. And then we all have until February 15, 2014 to enroll in private insurance coverage before being subject to the individual mandate penalty.

Congressman: Obamacare a 'bad product'
Congressman decries 'monkey court'
Why is Obamacare website ailing?

According to psychology studies, 20% of Americans are chronic procrastinators. At least 95% of Americans say they procrastinate regularly. Plus, to be clear, picking among multiple health insurance options is a bit more complicated than buying a new T-shirt. So if millions of Americans are waiting until the last second to enroll in Obamacare, we shouldn't just chalk that up to the law's failure or website problems but to inevitable human nature. The good news is, by the time most people seeking insurance get around to enrolling, whether by December 15 or February 15, the website kinks will undoubtedly have long been ironed out.

eBay wasn't built in a day. And neither was any major government initiative. From Social Security to Medicare to the Peace Corps to the income tax, other significant government programs were initially as overrun with snafus as they were with critiques. But eventually, employers figured out how to include workers' names and Social Security numbers in their earnings reports and the website for Medicare Part D was successfully debugged.

A few geeks locked in a room with a case of Mountain Dew will fix the Obamacare websites. But all the computer programmers and pundits and conservative nay-sayers in the land couldn't fix the fact that, three years ago, our health care costs were skyrocketing, tens of millions of Americans lacked health insurance and 14,000 more were losing their coverage every day.

We needed a law to fix that. Thankfully, we now have one. And whatever the ups and downs of the websites, the Affordable Care Act is working.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sally Kohn.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT