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Obamacare by the numbers

Welcome to Health Reform Watch, Sarah Kliff’s regular look at how the Affordable Care Act is changing the American health-care system — and being changed by it. You can reach Sarah with questions, comments and suggestions here. Check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon for the latest edition, and read previous columns here.

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There has been a lot of hot rhetoric lately about how many people will see big changes to their insurance coverage due to the new health-care law. Here at Wonkblog, we thought it would be helpful to take a step back and run through the issue with some cold, hard numbers.

311 million people live in the United States right now.

263 million of those people have health insurance coverage right now. Good for them!

That leaves 48 million people who don't have insurance coverage. That's where Obamacare comes in.

According to the Congressional Budget Office's estimates, Obamacare will cut the ranks of uninsured by 25 million people over the next decade.

12 million of those people are expected to purchase health insurance coverage through the new exchanges, often using subsidies.

13 million are expected to receive health insurance through the newly expanded Medicaid program.

As for everyone else?

You've probably heard about insurance cancellations under Obamacare. This concerns the 15 million people who currently purchase insurance coverage in the individual market.

That works out to 5 percent of Americans buy health plans for themselves.

An estimated 7-12 million people in this category -- people who buy their own insurance -- are expected to receive cancellation notices. That's somewhere between the population of Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Some of these people will end up paying more for insurance under Obamacare. Some will end up paying less. Seventeen million people are expected to qualify for tax subsidies to help purchase insurance coverage. This includes some, but not all, of the people who are receiving cancellation notices.

38 days have gone by since launched, and it's still experiencing lots of problems, running slowly and sending users error messages.

Six people managed to enroll on Oct. 1. That number hit 248 by the end of day two. That's a long way from the 7 million people the Congressional Budget Office estimates will sign up in year one, 2.7 million of whom the White House wants to be healthy young adults.

Only 123 people signed up for Massachusetts's coverage expansion in its first month, about 0.3 percent of the first year's enrollment. That's a data point the White House often uses to argue that enrollment numbers in the first few months don't really mean too much.

But for people receiving cancellation notices, they really want to sign up sometime in the next 37 days -- before Dec. 15, the last day they can purchase coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

The White House says the Web site will be working smoothly by Dec. 1. That means they have 23 days to fix Obamacare .

KLIFF NOTES: Top health policy reads from around the Web.

Obama is looking at an administrative fix for those with cancelled plans. "Such a fix would address the issue of 'sticker shock' that has been popping up across the country, as individuals are losing their coverage and finding only higher-cost alternatives. Under the ACA, there are tax subsidies to help individuals and families with income between 133 percent and 400 percent above the poverty level purchase insurance. Those with incomes higher than 400 percent above poverty get no such assistance. The proposed administrative fix would address this group." Sam Stein in the Huffington Post. 

And he apologized to Americans losing their health coverage. "President Obama apologized Thursday to Americans who are losing their health insurance despite his repeated promises that they wouldn’t, an unusual act of contrition for a president who has come under heavy criticism for misleading the public." Juliet Eilperin in The Washington Post.

You can watch the video or read the transcript of the apology here

Many Americans will qualify for no-subsidy insurance plans. "If you know someone who is uninsured, or buys her own insurance in the individual market– and lives in Texas, North Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama – chances are greater than 1 in 3 that under Obamacare she will qualify for health insurance that will cost her nothing. That’s right—her government tax credit will cover the entire premium." Maggie Mahar in Health Beat.


Have you used the new health insurance exchanges? Share your story here.