Obamacare Open-Enrollment and Statistical Reality

March 20, 2014

On this first day of spring, the brilliant Avik Roy of Forbes Magazine asks two questions about the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare:

First: how many people who have signed up for coverage were previously uninsured? Second: will the botched rollout and design flaws lead to even higher health insurance costs next year?

Roy suggests that health care premiums might soar by as much as 40 percent in 2015, and concludes by asking, “For those who already struggle to afford their health insurance bills, the worst is not yet over.” One of the sounds you do not hear is Tony the Tiger saying, “Grrrrr-eat!”

National Public Radio reports today that enrollment in Obamcare is “surging,” and is now over five million. That’s two million less than the White House’s original prediction of seven million by the end of the open-enrollment period, which comes on the 31st of this month.

Even the five million figure is in dispute, but let’s be charitable and accept that figure -- and even go one better, and believe the White House that one million more people might enroll by midnight, March 31. Yet as Washington Times columnist Joseph Curl points out, we were told repeatedly by the President and his top aides that as late as last June, there were 46 million Americans without health insurance. What are the rest of them doing?

According to a January 2014 McKinsey survey of more than 4,500 Americans eligible for a “qualified health plan,” of the 28 percent of Americans who signed-up for personal health insurance in 2014, only 11 percent “reported themselves previously uninsured.” How can a dribble be mistaken for a surge?

The Administration also continues to qualify and postpone various provisions of the plan. The Galen Institute says that as of March 5, there have been at least “37 significant changes already have been made to ObamaCare: at least 20 that President Obama has made unilaterally, 15 that Congress has passed and the president has signed, and 2 by the Supreme Court.” Obamacare is, as Avik Roy notes, being made up as it goes along.

A final note: Contrary to the claims of many on the Left, Republicans have offered several comprehensive health care reform plans, alternatives to Obamacare that are market-focused and patient-driven. Included among them:

  • H.R. 3121: “The American Health Care Reform Act” – U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) (Dr. Roe outlined his plan at FRC in November.)


  • H.R. 3400: “The Empowering Patients First Act” – U.S. Rep. Tom Price, M.D. (R-GA).


  • S. 1783: “Ten Steps to Transform Health Care in America Act” – U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY).


  • In process: “The Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment Act, or the Patient CARE Act (PCA)” – U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). A framework of the measure has been developed, and its language is now being written.

I don’t suggest that each of these measures is perfect, complete, or even affordable. Rather, when the President asserts that the GOP has no alternative to his plan, he’s wrong. He might not like what conservatives are offering but he cannot claim they have not provided encompassing, beginning-to-end medical system reform plans.

It is wearisome to debate all the motivations of those who support the Affordable Care Act. Let’s say all of them mean well for everyone (except for the unborn, whose destruction is subsidized by Obamacare). Fine. But let’s also look at reality in its cold, steely eyes: Obamacare is a mess, a fiscal and practical disaster.

There is no shortage of thoughtful and, sometimes, rightly biting commentary on Obamacare on the FRC website. I’ll let my distinguished colleague Ken Blackwell have the last word: “ObamaCare cannot be salvaged, because government-run health care cannot work better than free markets. Government safety nets work only when relatively few people are in those nets.”