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Official says Obamacare enrollment numbers will no longer be inflated by adding dental plans


Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said Tuesday that her agency would no longer present Obamacare enrollment data in a way that combines health care coverage and dental coverage, a practice that Republicans say let officials present an inflated number for health care coverage.

Earlier this year, Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said CMS told Congress that 7.3 million people were enrolled in "health care coverage" under Obamacare. Most interpreted that to mean 7.3 million people were enrolled in a full health care plan.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.40.30 PM Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Tuesday she will no longer present Obamacare enrollment data in a way that some say inflates enrollment numbers.
Image: AP Photo/Molly Riley

But it was later discovered that about 400,000 of those people only had dental coverage. That led to criticisms that CMS was purposefully trying to inflate the overall number for Obamacare.

Removing those people only with dental coverage means there are about 6.7 million people currently enrolled in Obamacare health plans.

At a hearing in that same committee Tuesday, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked if Tavenner knew that some were only getting dental coverage when she presented the 7.3 million number to Congress. Issa's questioning indicated he believed CMS must have known it was adding health and dental plans together, since CMS presented the numbers people "enrolled in health care coverage," as oppose dot people enrolled in "health plans."

But Tavenner said she was not aware dental and health were lumped together, and said CMS would not conflate the two in the future.

"Moving forward, only individuals with medical coverage will be included in our individual… enrollment numbers," she said. "While this mistake was regrettable, it should not obscure the fact that the Affordable Care Act is working."

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) also criticized Tavenner for the inaccurate reporting, and said it gives opponents of Obamacare "a gift" they can use to attack the law.

"It was an inexcusable mistake," she said.

Issa also used the hearing to warn Tavenner that she is about a week late in providing information about what she and other officials knew about the 7.3 million number, and when they knew it. Issa subpoenaed all documents related to that problem, but said CMS has not yet provided everything he requested.

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