Skip to main content

Why Obamacare? 3 Charts

By Sally Kohn
November 15, 2013 -- Updated 0445 GMT (1245 HKT)
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
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT