The Politics and Facts of Obamacare

President Obama has apologized for a fumbled rollout of his signature presidential achievement as Obamacare enters a new chapter of political debate and consumer exploration.The bungled rollout of the Affordable Care Act, coupled with a tide of canceled health insurance policies, has put a dozen Democratic senators, including Oregon's Jeff Merkley, in a defensive position a year ahead of the 2014 election.

Merkley has joined other Senate Democrats in supporting legislation to allow people to retain their health insurance plans that have been canceled because they fail to meet the minimum requirements under the Affordable Care Act.

The balky federal Affordable Care Act website is blamed for embarrassingly sluggish sign-ups for health insurance coverage, which totaled only slightly more than 106,000 in October. However, the political panic button has been pushed because the existing health care plan cancellations undercut President Obama's oft-repeated promise than no one would be forced to give up their health plan. No less than former President Bill Clinton says action is needed to make the promise whole.

Republicans have dubbed 12 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2014 the Obamacare Dozen. North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan is already the target of attack ads, which have eroded her poll numbers so she now finds herself in a dead heat with potential GOP challengers.

Several of the 12 Democrats, including senators who just months ago were viewed as invincible in 2014, are pivoting to separate themselves from Obamacare by supporting a fix to the canceled policy problem, advocating for a longer period to enroll in a new health plan or demanding an investigation on why the website rollout tanked.

For his part, Obama has tried to absorb some of the frustration by apologizing for the poor website rollout and admitting "we fumbled the rollout on this health care law," as he unveiled his own fix to allow people to retain current health care plans.

Congressman Henry Waxman, D-California, has pushed back on "fixing" canceled health care policies, claiming many of these policies offered limited coverage to generally healthy people who could be shocked at what they would need to pay if they became sick. The long-time universal health access advocate also says the Affordable Care Act's economics are balanced on convincing younger, healthier people to take out more comprehensive coverage to help spread the overall cost of health insurance.

Waxman's plea to hold the course has bumped into emerging concerns that claims may be exaggerated that many younger people can secure a decent health insurance plan for as little as $50 per month. A study indicates that claim is hard to defend because some young people don't earn enough money to qualify to shop for a plan on health insurance exchanges. Those who do may wind up paying $100 or more per month.

As is often the case in politics, the underlying value of a program may get lost in smoke from verbal fireworks over faulty execution and inflated promises. The advertising to encourage people to go online to look for a good health plan fit may contribute to consumer wariness that the Affordable Care Act is more about marketing than quality health care.

There are attempts here and there to field and answer specific questions about how the Affordable Care Act works. For example, NPR's Julie Rovner is trying to report under the war clouds of Obamacare on topics such as whether there is an upper income limit for shopping on a health insurance exchange (there isn't) and the economics of shopping for plan even though you get coverage from your employer (it usually doesn't pencil out).

One thing is clear – the issue of national health insurance has the nation's attention. Even though precious few have enrolled so far, there have been a huge number of website hits of people clicking to find out how Obamacare affects them.