Around the same time, conservative analysts James Capretta and Tom Miller examined the issue and noted estimates that the number of Americans who might be denied such coverage was between 2 million and 4 million, and quite possibly far smaller than even the low end of that range. That is a significant number of people, with a real problem that needs addressing. But it's not 129 million. It's not even a small fraction of that number.
"It's a very small group in our large country," says another conservative analyst, Yuval Levin, "but the fear of falling into it is a powerful political force."
One way the Obama administration fed that powerful political force was to exaggerate the problem.
Indeed, a larger number of people -- perhaps 5 million in the nation's individual insurance market -- are now facing cancellation of their coverage and far higher premiums and deductibles in the new policies they must purchase. And yet the administration has dismissed them as a tiny part of the U.S. population. "It's a relatively small number of people in the overall scheme of things," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said last month.
What is indisputable is that the aspects of Obamacare the White House cites most often in its promotional campaign -- the pre-existing conditions policy, or the estimated 3.4 million young Americans who can stay on their parents' coverage until age 26 -- involve numbers that are far smaller than the tens of millions of people who will likely face steeper costs, nearly unpayable deductibles and sharply limited doctor choices under Obamacare. (In addition to the 10-million person individual market, some experts believe such problems are coming soon to the 45-million person small-group market.)
And that is why the White House sales campaign focuses on the same things Democrats said in 2009, and 2010, and 2011, and 2012. Back then, the burdens of Obamacare had not yet become a reality for most Americans. Now they have, and the administration does not have a good answer for the millions who will struggle under the new system. No wonder the president is talking about something else.