While the Obama Administration is still permitting people who experienced technical difficulties with the healthcare.gov website to sign-up for coverage until April 15th, the initial open enrollment period for the health insurance marketplaces ended on March 31st. As we now know, more than 7 million people signed up for coverage between October 1 and the end of March. Plenty of people are talking about whether or not this is a victory for the White House. Will this help Democrats in the midterm elections? Is the GOP still on track to take control of the Senate because of how much so many Americans dislike the ACA? There are plenty of angles from which to view the situation, but what I think gets lost in this whole discussion is the magnitude of a number like 7 million. So, in the spirit of trying to help that sink in for you, consider the following:
- If you had 7 million pennies, it would be worth $70,000.
- If you were able to stack all of those pennies up, they would reach more than 6.7 miles into the sky, despite each being merely 1.55 millimeters thick.
- If you had $7 million, you could buy your own brand new Learjet.
- If you traveled 7 million miles in that Learjet (laws of physics notwithstanding), you could fly to the moon and back nearly 15 times.
- If you built a colony on the moon and wanted to populate it with 7 million Americans, you could easily accommodate the entire population of both Los Angeles and Chicago.
The point is, 7 million is a really, really big number. And behind that really, really big number are people who now have health insurance–many of them for the first time in a long time–if ever. It bears repeating that we’re still just getting started, despite being 5 years into the ACA. It will take time for all of this to sort itself out, and it will happen even as everything around it in health care is changing. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the enormity of 7 million people signing up for health insurance. For those who support the ACA, this should be viewed as a step in the right direction, with a healthy respect for the fact that this is far short of the goal of universal coverage. For those who oppose the ACA, this should be viewed as an indication that, even if the policy to fix it is unpalatable, the problem itself is very large. Calls to repeal the ACA without putting something in its place will mean that these 7 million will be left in the lurch.