Monday, October 20th, 2014
True
Somers
"Even after Obamacare is fully implemented, there still will be tens of millions of people not covered."

Suzanne Somers on Thursday, November 28th, 2013 in a column in the "Wall Street Journal"

Suzanne Somers says even with Obamacare, tens of millions will remain uninsured

Actress Suzanne Somers penned a column critical of Obamacare in the "Wall Street Journal." We checked one of her claims. (Screen grab from the "Wall Street Journal.")

The actress Suzanne Somers, best known for her role on the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company, sparked controversy recently when she wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal that harshly criticized President Barack Obama’s health care law.

In her column, topped by the provocative title, "The Affordable Care Act Is a Socialist Ponzi Scheme," Somers argued that "the word ‘affordable’ is a misnomer. So far, all you are hearing on the news is how everyone’s premiums are doubling and tripling and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that the whole thing is a big mess. Plus, even after Obamacare is fully implemented, there still will be tens of millions of people not covered. So what’s the point? Medical care will be degraded, the costs will skyrocket, and most frightening of all, your most intimate and personal information is now up for grabs."

The column prompted a backlash, as critics took issue with the substance of her arguments while also snickering at the Journal’s need to append multiple corrections to the column. (The correction called a quotation Somers had attributed to V.I. Lenin "widely disputed," a quotation attributed to Winston Churchill unconfirmed, said Somers had misstated the type of animal used on a cover of Maclean’s magazine in 2008 -- it was a dog, not a horse.)

"In fewer than 600 words, Somers managed to purvey untruths, misinterpretations, made-up quotes and irrelevant anecdotes," said one particularly stinging response by the Los Angeles Times’ Robin Abcarian.

But it turns out that not everything Somers said is wrong.

Here we’ll take a look at her claim that "even after Obamacare is fully implemented, there still will be tens of millions of people not covered."

We can’t predict the future, but we can turn to the best available independent analysis of the health care law’s impact -- projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO’s most recent projections, from February 2013, produced the following figures:

 

Year

Number of non-elderly people without insurance

Percentage of the population without insurance

2013

55 million

20%

2014

44 million

16%

2015

37 million

14%

2016

31 million

11%

2017

29 million

10%

2018

29 million

10%

2019

29 million

10%

2020

29 million

10%

2021

29 million

10%

2022

29 million

10%

2023

30 million

10%

 

So, Somers is right -- by 2023, there will still be 30 million Americans without insurance. Presumably these will be a combination of people who opt to pay a penalty rather than signing up for insurance, people or families who are exempted because they can’t find affordable coverage, and undocumented immigrants, who are exempt from the mandate to purchase insurance.

Obamacare supporters will surely counter that the number of uninsured Americans will drop over this decade-long period by 25 million people, or almost half, despite overall population growth. In addition, the percentage of uninsured Americans will be cut in half, from 20 percent today to 10 percent a decade from now, according to CBO.

Our ruling

Somers wrote that, "even after Obamacare is fully implemented, there still will be tens of millions of people not covered." She’s right -- by 2023, CBO projects that 30 million Americans will lack health insurance. While this is lower than today’s figure both in absolute numbers and in the percentage of the population, that doesn’t take away from the basic accuracy of Somers’ claim. We rate her claim True.