Pundit Accountability: The Best and Worst Obamacare Predictions

Pundits across the country woke to very disappointing news this morning — they were completely wrong about Obamacare.

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Many pundits across the country woke to very disappointing news this morning — they were completely wrong about Obamacare. Despite a busted website, tons of bad press and a dozen (debunked) horror stories, a last minute rush of procrastinators pushed enrollments over the 7 million mark. A select few (usually on the left) were vindicated after months of saying everything would work out. And while the final number needs to be adjusted for who has paid and who will enroll during the special enrollment extension, the fact is we're a long way from the six people who bought Healthcare.gov plans on October 1. For every pundit who thought today's headlines were possible, there were handful who saw death spirals and bailouts. 

Here are the best and worst predictions. (Note: we're only including journalist types, so Ben Carson's analysis that Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery or Joe Biden's many estimates didn't make the cut.)

Pundit: Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic

Prediction: Obamacare will be fine — November 13, 2013

Quote: "Me? Barring unforeseen developments or wrinkles in this report, I’m sticking with my story. The October numbers are low, which was to be expected given the website problems and tendency of people not to buy insurance right away. But what matters isn’t the figures for October or even November. It’s December and the months that follow—particulalry into next year, as the prospect of paying fines for uninsurance start to hit people in the face. 'It's too early to say anything useful,' says Jonathan Gruber, professor of economics at MIT. 'And, really, I don't think we can draw any significant conclusions about effectiveness of the law until March, because any firm conclusion requires effects of individual mandate to be felt.'"

How that prediction looks now: A victory lap seems pretty warranted.

Fox News.

Pundit: Marc A. Thiessen, The Washington Post

Prediction: Obamacare is imploding — October 14, 2013

Quote: "If the federal government can’t manage a simple Web site, how on earth is it going to manage the health care of millions of Americans? .... President Obama may have no choice but to delay the individual mandate ... While the administration won’t reveal sign-up rates, London’s Daily Mail reported that total sign-ups in the first week were just 51,000 people. If accurate, that would mean they have just 6,949,000 more to go to break even."

How that sounds now: About 6.9 million more people did enroll.

Pundit: Matt Yglesias, Slate

Prediction: July 17, 2013


Quote: "Again, that's not to deny that there will be some problems. But you have to understand that the media, for non-ideological reasons, is just massively biased toward negativity about this kind of thing."

How that prediction looks now: "Great" and "love" are strong words, but this seems a lot more reasonable now than it did in mid-October.

Pundit: Jim Geraghty, The National Review

Prediction: California's low enrollment is evidence we'll need to bail out insurance companies — November 21, 2013

Quote: "[T]hey’re at 6.1 percent on the high end of their goal, at 10 percent of their low-end goal, with 28 percent of the enrollment period passed. ... If you thought Obamacare was unpopular before, wait until the term 'multimillion dollar taxpayer bailout of health insurance companies' gets thrown around."

How that prediction looks now: Premature. Geraghty is referring to California's prelaunch goal of somewhere between 800,000 and 1.3 million. Covered California passed 1.2 million enrollments on Monday, according to the San Francisco Business Times.


Pundit: Ed Schultz, MSNBC

Prediction: Obamacare might reach 7 million — March 27, 2014

Quote: "I think it might even hit 7 million?”

How that prediction looks now: Correct. After predicting in mid-December that Obamacare would enroll 5 million people by March 1 (he was about two weeks off), Schultz predicted that Obamacare could maybe reach 7 million last week. There were already 6 million enrollments at that point, though, so it wasn't a very bold statement.

Pundit: Steven F. Hayward, Forbes

Prediction: Obamacare will be repealed in 2014 — November 11, 2013

Quote: "Prediction: even if HealthCare.gov is fixed by the end of the month (unlikely), Obamacare is going to be repealed well in advance of next year’s election."

How that prediction looks now: Silly. The website was fixed and most Americans don't favor repeal. But who knows, that last sentence might come back to haunt us.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.