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 3:18 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Frida Ghitis says as violence claims three U.S. doctors, the temptation is to despair, but aid to Afghanistan has made it a much better place
updated 2:33 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says in California, Asian-Americans are against the use of racial criteria in public colleges.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Heidi Schlumpf says if the Pope did tell an Argentinian woman married to a divorced man that she could take Communion, it may signify a softening of church rules on the divorced and sacraments
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Norcross, Georgia, Chief of Police Warren Summers says the new law that allows guns in bars, churches and schools will have unintended dangerous consequences.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Mel Robbins says social media is often ruled by haters, and people can be brutally honest.
updated 12:44 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Mike Downey says the golf purists can take a hike; the game needs radical changes to win back fans and players.
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT