The Obama administration never stops. The president and his political allies continue to declare victory on Obamacare enrollments while still concealing the number of people who have actually paid for coverage.
With an end-of-year enrollment target of 7 million, the administration reported that 8 million Americans had “enrolled” in Obamacare, exceeding expectations. But that number is misleading – the president included in his tally millions of Americans who placed a plan in their shopping cart but have not necessarily purchased it.
According to recent insurer data gathered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, only two-thirds of those selecting plans in the 34 federally facilitated Obamacare health insurance exchanges had actually paid for coverage as of April 15. The percent paid will likely increase – but one has to wonder why the administration has not only failed to release this data, but has quietly stopped releasing enrollment data altogether.
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But the reported enrollments versus percent of paid enrollments may be muddled beyond recognition.
Based on recent congressional testimony, it seems that, due to website problems, some individuals may have enrolled multiple times. In these cases, the government may count all of these enrollments toward the total enrollment number. The insurer, knowing that the individual enrolled multiple times, will count that individual as having paid.
For example, if there are four people with one enrollment each and one person with six enrollments, the government may report this as 10 enrollments. If the first four people paid for each of their policies and the fifth person paid for one policy, the insurer will report 100 percent payment. In this way, the government enrollments numbers may be further overstating enrollments.
Another important statistic the administration is not sharing is how many of these enrollees were previously uninsured. This number is important because this health care scheme was originally sold as a plan to ultimately reduce the number of the nation’s 48 million uninsured by about half. Some recent surveys have indicated that only as few as one-third of enrollees purchasing in the exchange were previously uninsured.
Not only did the federal government originally project about 14 million health insurance exchange enrollments in 2014, only to be revised to 7 million in September 2013, but these projections also assumed that the vast majority of these exchange enrollments would be previously uninsured individuals.
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Many states expanded their Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the poverty level under Obamacare. But instead of counting only new Medicaid enrollees, the administration is counting new enrollees and Medicaid renewals, as well as those “woodwork” Medicaid individuals who previously were eligible for the program but had not bothered to enroll. When someone reapplies in the Medicaid program to maintain their Medicaid coverage, this is not someone who previously was uninsured.
That the program has, so far, done little to address health care access and affordability is nothing short of a travesty. As the numerous failures of Obamacare continue to mount, so do the harmful outcomes for American families up and down the income ladder.
For some, it could mean having to seek another job to make up for lost income if work hours are cut through their primary employer. For those with higher incomes, the effects of the law could mean losing their current health insurance coverage, and facing the prospect of canceled group health policies and higher premiums. It will, in many cases, also mean losing access to one’s current provider network of hospitals and doctors. Few will be insulated from these negative effects.
Despite the press conferences and declarations of victory, there is little reason to believe that Obamacare is going to deliver health care access and affordability for the vast majority of Americans. What we do know is that the little information that the Obama administration has released continues to hide the reality of Obamacare: Americans are not buying it.
If the administration was half as enthusiastic about revealing who has paid and whether they were previously uninsured as it has been about claiming to have surpassed the enrollment goal, it would have started revealing this information months ago.
Naomi Lopez Bauman is the director of health policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @LopezBauman.
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