Ignore the Administration’s Inflated Obamacare Coverage Numbers

Whitehouse.govWhitehouse.govIn a speech to the Democratic Governor’s Association last week, president Obama touted the success of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. “We’ve got close to 7 million Americans who have access to health care for the first time because of Medicaid expansion,” he said.

That’s false.

We don’t know how exactly many people have gotten health coverage through Medicaid for the first time as a result of Obamacare, but the actual number is certainly much lower than the 7 million President Obama claimed.

As The Washington Post’s Fact Checker explains—again—the 7 million figure comes from reports counting the number of people who have enrolled in Medicaid since October 1 last year, when Obamacare’s online exchanges launched. But many of those enrollments are in states that did not participate in the law’s Medicaid expansion, and many of those who signed up in states that did participate were renewing existing coverage. Avalere Health, a health consulting firm that has been tracking Obamacare’s implementation, estimates that the number of new enrollees is somewhere in the range of 1.1 to 1.8 million. (And that number counts people who were previously eligible prior to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion but signed up after the fact.)

That’s Medicaid. What about private coverage? Once again, solid numbers are hard to pin down. But the true number of enrollees is virtually certain to be lower than the administration’s headline estimates.

The administration said earlier this month that, by the end of January, 3.3 million people had signed up for private coverage through the exchanges. But that figure leaves two important questions unanswered: How many people have paid the first premium, a requirement to actually be enrolled in coverage? And how many of those people were previously uninsured?

We don’t have good answers to either question. But we can be pretty sure that once we do, the total will be substantially lower than the administration’s topline number.

Several reports have cited insurance industry insiders to estimate that roughly 20 percent, and perhaps as much as 30 percent, of exchange-based coverage sign-ups haven’t paid.

That means a significant downward revision is coming—a 20 to 30 percent reduction would bring total enrollments down to between 2.31 million and 2.64 million.

But remember: Millions of people had their individual insurance policies cancelled as a result of Obamacare. Some policies that were set to be cancelled under the law were extended for a year, but even still, it’s likely that there’s a sizable cohort of individuals who lost coverage and moved into exchange-based policies. Other previously covered people may have moved into the exchanges for different reasons.

What that means is that the number of previously uninsured people who have gotten covered through the exchanges is probably even lower than the number of paid enrollments. How much lower? We really don’t know. At some point, this information may be tracked by the administration through the exchanges. But not for a while. That functionality is among many crucial website back-end features that have not been completed yet. 

Basically, reliable numbers are impossible to come by at this point. And as this Politico report notes, we may not know for a lot longer. Without real-time tracking through the exchanges, we’ll have to wait for a reliable independent study—or census data when it comes out next year. Until then, inflated claims of success like the one President Obama made last week ought to be ignored.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • WTF||

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    According to wikipedia, independent studies claim that the Farmers' Almanac is no more accurate than chance. If that's correct, and if the Almanac is consistently more accurate than the computer models, what does that say about the models themselves? Surreal.

  • some guy||

    The linked article just says that the Almanac was right about the weather this year, while the climate models were not. Science by anecdote!

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Thus the second if.

    Needless to say, science that is not predictive or falsifiable ain't science.

  • some guy||

    Farmers’ Almanac More Reliable Than Warming Climate Models.

    That's like saying dowsing is a more reliable way of finding water than throwing darts at a map.

  • John||

    What would stop some enterprising group looking to engage in civil disobedience from flooding the exchanges with fake name sign ups? I have no doubt if this program were owned by Republicans various left with fascist groups would be doing just that.

  • UnCivilServant||

    The website itself would, due simply to its unusability.

  • John||

    There is that.

  • Carolynp||

    Conservatives tend not to engage in such things because they expend their energies doing things like working and having lives.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Pete, are you accusing the President of bending the truth? Why would he need to do that? Are you not aware that reality has a strong liberal bias?

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Reality has a strong continental liberal bias.

  • AlmightyJB||

    AND theres no santa clause

  • Jerry on the boat||

    There are lies, damned lies, and then there is the Obama administration.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    OT: Pentagon Set to Slash Military to Pre-World War II Levels

    Firing the opening salvo in a bloody budget battle, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is set to recommend drastic cuts of billions of dollars that would take U.S military forces to levels not seen since before World War II.

    The cuts in military spending, forces and weapons programs address the stark reality of growing budget pressures at home and point to improbability that the United States will ever again engage in a large ground war.

    The plan, to be unveiled Monday afternoon, is likely to face stiff opposition on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers will battle for every troop, weapons program and dollar.

    For the record, I'd like to point out that this is the military recommendation. They realize, albeit reluctantly, the current path is unsustainable and are trying to maximize capability by getting rid of dead weight. And, as usual, look who is standing in the way for purposes of politics over capability.

  • Brett L||

    There's a thread down below about it.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Thx, missed it.

  • John||

    Are they really trying to get rid of dead weight? Seems to me that if they really wanted to do that, they would be cutting the GS and contractor force and converting the positions into military slots.

    Maybe I am a cynic, but I think they are just killing war fighting ability in an effort to ensure that the various contractors keep getting rich.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    Contractors and GS are significantly less expensive than military personnel.

    Training, healthcare, retirements...you don't need to train a GS to fight a war AND do their admin job.

  • Swiss Servator, mehr Käse!||

    I would argue that to some end - some of the contracts I saw handed out for support services were very expensive, and uniformed personnel and units could have done the same for far less - even taking the factors into account you raised above. Also, the admin bloat is embarrassing - tail is waaaaay more than tooth.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    I can't speak for the Army (you were Army, right?), but if the AF would commit to warfighting instead of half of the bullshit social programs they waste resources on, they'd save a shit-ton of money and have happier Airmen to boot.

    The AF has got Wing Commanders tracking credit card payments and force-wide inspections to ensure no one puts an inappropriate picture of their wife in a bathing suit on their desks.

  • RishJoMo||

    Does this come as any real surprise?

    www.Anon-VPN.com

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Basically, reliable numbers are impossible to come by at this point. And as this Politico report notes, we may not know for a lot longer.

    That won't stop the true believers from repeating the 7 million claim ad nauseam. Just like the "1.6 million jobs created or saved" claim from the "non-partisan" CBO that was based on mathematical models and wishful thinking.

  • LiveFreeOrDOH!||

    What's the over under on when these 'reliable' numbers will come out - before or after November 4?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Why does it matter?

    The naysayers will claim victory just as the defenders will no matter the number.

    In reality 1-2% of the country will be impacted to make this law a near total waste of time and a "victory" for almost no one.

    DEMOCRATS ARE DOOMED I TELLS YA!!!!

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    The anonbot has a better grasp of reality.

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug|2.24.14 @ 1:07PM|#
    "Why does it matter?"

    You're alright, so screw anyone who took it in the shorts, right?
    Fuck you with a bag of fishing hooks.

  • The Other Kevin||

    I am the 1%.

  • Azathoth!!||

    but the actual number is certainly much lower than the 7 million President Obama claimed.

    So? Isn't that actually a good thing? Or is seven million more people not paying for the medical services they recieve some kind of boon to the nation?

  • ||

    But remember: Millions of people had their individual insurance policies cancelled as a result of Obamacare. Some policies that were set to be cancelled under the law were extended for a year, but even still, it’s likely that there’s a sizable cohort of individuals who lost coverage and moved into exchange-based policies. Other previously covered people may have moved into the exchanges for different reasons.

    Don't forget the report that about 80% of the signups as of december were people who previously has insurance coverage.

  • Sevo||

    Well,
    "Obamacare's Dismal California Numbers
    900,000 Californians lost their health plans by January 1. 500,000 signed up on the Obamacare exchange."
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....75360.html

  • PapayaSF||

    "Look how popular my new apartment building is, after I set fire to the rest of the neighborhood!"

  • Almanian!||

    I came late to the thread, and am surprised someone let this pass:

    Ignore the Administration’s Inflated Obamacare Coverage Numbers

    FIXED!

  • Carolynp||

    The blatant dishonesty about the numbers only slightly irritates me more than the reporters who just swallow it. I worked as an underwriter for five years. If there is one thing every insurance company knows, it is who paid. This ridiculous statement that they really have no idea of blah, blah, blah. Insurance companies must know who actually pays them, just that simple. In the years I worked, before the internet, fyi, we knew who paid us with a phone call.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement