Rate Shock Probably Affects Less Than 1 Percent of the Country

| Thu Nov. 14, 2013 4:20 PM EST

How many people are subject to rate shock in the individual insurance market thanks to Obamacare? That's a surprisingly hard figure to get a handle on. But here's a rough cut:

  • There are about 15 million people who currently get individual coverage.
  • Of that, only about 5 million stay in the individual market for more than a year. The rest have individual coverage for only a few months and are minimally impacted by policy cancellations.
  • At a guess, maybe a third of these long-term buyers will end up with higher rates for comparable policies once they've shopped the exchange and applied their subsidies.

So that's a grand total of perhaps 1-2 million people. It's a lot. At the same time, it's less than 1 percent of the population of the country. I don't want to minimize the pain that higher rates are causing this 1 percent, but at the same time, we shouldn't be overreacting either. Given the kludgy nature of our current health care system and the realities of American politics, it would be hard to design any kind of large-scale health care reform that did much better.

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