The Washington Post’s fact checker on Monday awarded President Barack Obama with a flunking grade for claiming recently that approximately 7 million Americans now have “access to health care for the first time because of Medicaid expansion.”

The president’s claim, which the Post awarded four Pinocchio’s, was made on Feb. 20 during a dinner with the Democratic Governors Association.

The Washingont

The president received four Pinocchios for saying seven million Americans now have access to health care because of the Affordable Care Act (image source: Washington Post)

“The Congressional Budget Office estimates that because of the ACA, the number of Americans on Medicaid will increase by 8 million in 2014,” the Post reported, noting that Medicaid figure was revised downward recently from 9 million.

“Most of those people would be in the new pool of applicants, but it could also include some people who were previously eligible for Medicaid but had never signed up before all the publicity about new health-care options,” it added, explaining that these folks are known as coming out of the “woodwork.”

This is where things get tricky.

The Medicaid figures come by way of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The figures from DHS lump “together all sorts of Medicaid applicants, including people previously enrolled in Medicaid who are deemed eligible for another year… as well as people who would have been eligible under the old law.”

The report explains that these individuals are generally referred to as “normal churn.”

“The most recent report gives a top-line figure of 6.3 million people deemed eligible from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, which is presumably where Obama got his 7 million figure,” the Post added.

Further, Avalere, a health-consulting firm, recently challenged DHS’ numbers, estimating that Obamacare can take credit for only 1.1 million to 1.8 million of the claimed enrollees.

ACASignups.net’s Charles Gaba “disputed some of Avalere’s reasoning but has also concluded that not all of the Medicaid data released by the administration can be attributed to the ACA,” the Post reported.

Here’s how Gaba explains the numbers (as of Feb. 22):

  • 7,132,277 —eligible for Medicaid
  • 4,815,617 — Medicaid expansion states only, “including people coming out of the ‘woodwork’ and ‘normal churn.’”
  • 2,600,000 — Medicaid expansion states only, no “woodwork” or “churn” Medicaid applicants

States aren’t exactly clear with how they break down the data, which makes “this a bit of a guessing game,” the Post notes.

So what’s the bottom line? From the Post:

[The president] seems to be falling into the same trap as other Democrats, and some reporters, by assuming that everyone in the Medicaid list is getting health insurance for the first time because of the Affordable Care Act. But that number is nowhere close to 7 million. It could be as low as 1.1 million (Avalere) or as high as 2.6 million (Gaba.) If one wanted to be generous, one could include people coming out of the woodwork, even though they would have been covered under the old law, but no one is really sure what that figure is.

In any case, no matter how you slice it, it does not add up to 7 million.

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