Skip to main content

Why Obamacare? 3 Charts

By Sally Kohn
updated 11:45 PM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sally Kohn: Obama's fix on cancelled health plan lets us refocus on implementation
  • She says enrollment numbers lagging, but recall, Romneycare signups slow too
  • She health insurance system was disaster that Obamacare will ultimately redress
  • Kohn: GOP lies meant to thwart implementation that will help families, economy

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

(CNN) -- The Obamacare website might still be slow, but the politics and context of Obamacare are shifting rapidly. On Thursday, to deal with some of the grousing about canceled insurance plans, President Obama announced an administrative fix to allow people to keep those crummy plans (that they think they like) for up to a year. This should quiet some of the complaints within his own party, though certainly not Republicans, who will just find another reason to attack Obama and health care reform.

One hopes this fix will put the focus back on making Obamacare implementation as successful and effective as possible.

It's certainly not there yet. On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced that just more than 106,000 Americans had enrolled in health insurance plans through Obamacare exchanges, and another 975,000 people had shopped for plans but not enrolled in a selection yet. No one is cheering these numbers — well, no one except those Republicans who didn't want anyone to have access to affordable, quality private health insurance options in the first place.

Sally Kohn
Sally Kohn

The 106,000 enrollments are well below the 500,000 the White House had originally projected for this period before launch of the exchanges. The brouhaha over canceled insurance plans has muddied an otherwise positive law. But all of the above should be put in a broader context —the context of enrollment in past comparable insurance systems, the context of what health insurance was like before the Affordable Care Act passed, and the context of its opponents' repeated lies meant to distort and destroy Obamacare.

So, here are three handy charts to help you understand the reality of Obamacare and separate fact from fear-mongering.

Romneycare early enrollment  Romneycare early enrollment
Romneycare early enrollmentRomneycare early enrollment

CHART 1: Romneycare enrollment

Looking for an analog to what Obamacare enrollment might look like nationwide? Look no further than Massachusetts, which implemented a mini-version of Obamacare under then-Gov. Mitt Romney. In 2007, Romneycare wasn't even plagued by a bum website rollout — and enrollment was still gradual, as shown in this chart (click on it to expand) and explained by Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic.

It can be expected that people who need Obamacare the most — either because they're sick or because they're sick of their current expensive individual insurance — will enroll first, but everybody else, especially those who are currently uninsured, will wait until the last minute to sign up before they face the individual mandate penalty. Plus, even people who want their new plan to kick in on January 1, 2014, have until December 15 to enroll in a plan.

Also, choosing among the many options in the Obamacare exchanges does take time — which might explain, for instance, why almost 1 million people have logged into the exchange but not yet chosen an insurance option. With time, those numbers can be expected to grow.

Health care spending  Health care spending
Health care spendingHealth care spending

CHART 2: How bad it was before Obamacare

We may need a reminder of how disastrous our health insurance system was before Congress passed Obamacare. Just one way of looking at this is that health care spending as a percent of family income was already an astronomical 19% in 2009 but was projected to be 30% by 2019 and 48% by 2029 — unless something was done.

This reality is particularly lost when discussing the estimated 2% to 4% of Americans who have private insurance plans that will ultimately be canceled because of higher coverage standards set by the Affordable Care Act. Many of those people will find they have even better options in the exchanges, and at better prices. But even the small percentage of folks who find themselves paying more for insurance should be seen in the broader context of health care and insurance costs that were already skyrocketing out of control, for all of us, before Obamacare was passed.

Degree of truth  Degree of truth
Degree of truthDegree of truth

CHART 3: About those canceled plans

Finally, yes, Obama will implement an administrative fix so people can keep their lousy insurance plans for another year if they want to. But insurance companies will now be required to tell people they have other (and in many cases, probably better) options in the new exchanges. This will hopefully stop the practice of insurance companies trying to trick people with canceled plans into buying much more expensive new plans from the same company rather than shopping around.

But it will likely not stop Republican finger-pointing and accusations that President Obama lied. No matter that Obama apologized for the promise that people who liked their insurance plans could keep them, tried to clarify the situation and is implementing a fix in fulfillment of that pledge. But wait, aren't Republicans the ones who came up with death panels and keep asserting that lie even though it was not only disproven but also called the "lie of the year" by PolitiFact? To make the point that Republicans really shouldn't be pointing fingers in the lie department, Steve Benen came up with this chart to put this into perspective:

So here's where this leaves us: Not enough people have signed up for Obamacare yet, but there's still plenty of time; enrollment was slow when Massachusetts did this, too. And the administrative fix announced on Thursday will, incidentally, ease the transition period to new plans while probably keeping enrollment numbers even lower since people can now keep their current plans an extra year.

Meanwhile, even a slow and clunky Obamacare rollout is better than the runaway health care costs and millions of uninsured Americans we had before Obamacare. Republicans should stop trying to sabotage the law.

Obamacare is slowly but steadily rising over the obstacles of our broken insurance status-quo -- and destructive Republicans. When Obamacare is finally, fully implemented, our families, our health care system and our economy will all be better off.

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