That Obamacare Chart is Still Pretty Useful

This chart was making the rounds courtesy of economist Justin Wolfers, based on a Ryan Lizza interview with Jonathan Gruber, who tried to give an approximation for effects under the Affordable Care Act.

wolfers chart

This gained a lot of traction on Twitter, and a few blogs, certainly impressing the point that the vast majority of Americans will be left unaffected. The only problem is that, excluding the blue portion, the information isn’t really a good guess.

It was (who else?) Josh Barro that grumpily rained on everyone’s Halloween day parade:

Unfortunately, except the 80% largely unaffected, these numbers are garbage.

According to Lizza, Gruber marks 14% of the population as clear winners because they are uninsured now but gain access to affordable coverage. That would be about 45 million people as of 2016, when the Affordable Care Act is in full swing.

But according to the Congressional Budget Office, the law will only increase insurance coverage by about 26 million people through 2016, or 8% of the population. That’s the group that can be called “clear winners”; 14% is too aggressive an estimate.

Another 30 million people in the U.S. (9%) will still be uninsured in 2016.

He goes on to convincingly argue that the 3% with “No real consequence” will actually include “winners and losers” — which is a distinction I dislike, anyway. Moreover, the 3% who are acerbically described as “potential losers” are actually (mostly) winners; they’ll get a better product, of which only a part will end up paying more for after subsides.

Fair enough, sure. But for a great many people who aren’t already ensconced within the partisan feedback loop, something like this chart would really “shed much light,” contrary to Barro. These would probably be the same folks who are disaffected enough to still be unaware of the law, or so bombarded by the health care reform equivalent of the telephone game to believe the law includes death panels. Also, Barro’s distinctions don’t exactly swing in favor of the law’s opponents (not that it was his intention to do so). Rather, it illuminates how many more beneficiaries there will be, or more clearly showcases how many people are being left behind in states not expanding Medicaid.

Either way it exemplifies a point about the law that should be repeated — most people with insurance will just keep doing what they’re doing in the near-term. That’s a bit of a qualification because the future of health care reform is, at best, uncertain. There are avenues towards comprise for a future where Republicans give up on wholesale repeal of the law. Alternatively, there are existing GOP proposals that, if enacted, would be vastly more disruptive to the health care system. For now the starkest comparison is the proportion of heated rhetoric on the ACA versus those basically unaffected by it, which this chart does a pretty good job of showing.


2 responses to “That Obamacare Chart is Still Pretty Useful

  1. The “80% largely unaffected” also ignores the fact that people who get insurance through their employee are going to pay more for insurance with higher deductibles. I know this is a partisan issue, but there’s a great deal of common sense not being applied to this entire legislation and how it will hurt middle class workers.

  2. Pingback: Health Care Reform Isn’t A Simple Story | Punditocracy·

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