Obamacare Questions the White House Won't Answer

The administration has evaded questions about the health law instead of answering them.



In a briefing this week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney applauded the administration's openness regarding data related to Obamacare performance and implementation. "If you look at how we've dealt with data as it's become available over the past several months, both good data and bad data, we've done our best to provide it to you when we are confident about the accuracy of it," he said.

Every White House toots its own horn, but this was a bit much. The Obama administration's signature domestic policy achievement has been marked by an unwillingness to directly answer basic questions about the law and its implementation. When it comes to Obamacare, the most transparent administration in history is anything but.

Months after the launch of the exchanges, key questions about the law remain unanswered. First among those is how many people have actually enrolled. Not merely signed up, but enrolled, by picking a plan, requesting a bill, and paying the first month's premium.

The administration claims that more than 2.1 million individuals have signed up for private health plans thanks to the law, but has provided no data on how many of those people have actually paid the first month's premium.

Collecting and accounting for initial premiums was one of the most difficult parts of implementing Obamacare's state-based predecessor, RomneyCare, in Massachusetts, according to a Washington Post op-ed by Jon Kingsdale, the founding administrator of the Bay State's exchange. And the administration's actions so far haven't exactly suggested that it's having a lot of success either. Last month federal officials encouraged insurers to accept payment for insurance after coverage began. Insurers complied, saying that they would count individuals as enrolled in January if they paid by the 10th of the month. There's no word on how many have paid so far, but at the end of December, insurance industry sources told The Wall Street Journal that only about half of new enrollees had actually sent in a check.

Nor do we know how many people have enrolled in Medicaid thanks to Obamacare. The administration reports some four million sign-ups between October and November, but that figure includes people who were already eligible and got coverage for the first time as well as Medicaid beneficiaries who were renewing their existing enrollments, including those residing in states that did not participate in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. An estimate by Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics suggests that the number of enrollees whose coverage was only possible through Obamacare could be an order of magnitude smaller—perhaps less than 380,000.

The administration isn't just obscuring the total number of enrollments in the law. It's also declining to provide information about the demographic mix of the enrollees. (Carney's self-congratulatory remarks came in the context of refusing to provide that data.) That's especially telling given that, as Obamacare enrollment numbers have sagged below pre-launch administration estimates, the White House's emphasis has shifted its early definition of success for the law from total sign ups to achieving the right balance of young and healthy beneficiaries. There are hints of future trouble here, as well: Kentucky, which since launch day has had one of the best-functioning exchanges in the nation, appears to have a demographic mix that is heavily skewed toward the old.

These unanswered questions are a continuation of a longstanding pattern by the administration of obfuscation and outright refusal to answer legitimate questions about Obamacare. Over the past year and a half, Republicans in Congress have made multiple requests for information about the law and how it is being run, only to receive silence and tardy non-answers in return.

In May of 2012, a group of GOP lawmakers sent a letter to Medicare director Marilyn Tavenner about $2 billion in taxpayer financed loans made to co-op health plans through the law. Medicare officials didn't respond until nine months later, and then provided little useful information. By the end of October 2013, it became clear that the GOP's concerns were not frivolous: One of the co-ops had shut down, and nine others showed signs of financial distress, leaving taxpayers potentially on the hook for more than $1 billion in outstanding loans, according to a government audit. A follow-up letter about the program sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in November 2013 has yet to generate any response.

In August of last year, 39 GOP Senators asked the White House for details about federal agencies promoting the law, citing administration spreadsheets showing that 21 agencies were participating in the implementation and promotion of Obamacare—none of which had any responsibilities under the law. Under what legal authority were these agencies working on the law? Where was their funding activities related to the health law coming from? The administration didn't answer.

Nor has the administration responded to questions asked by four Republican Senators about paying contractors tasked with fixing the exchanges that crashed and burned last year.

Republican staffers on the Hill tell that the administration is similarly unwilling to answer questions behind closed doors. In a summer meeting in which the Treasury Department was supposed to provide GOP aides with details about the administration's decision to delay the employer mandate, Treasury officials simply stalled, giving lengthy, rambling answers with little useful information and no follow-ups. 

In public and in private, this has been the administration's response to questions about the health law: to stall, delay, ignore, and obscure. That's even true when asked about the questions it's not answering: Contrary to Jay Carney's defensive insistence that the administration has prioritized openness about the health law, the executive has done its best to evade questions rather than answer them. 

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  1. “Hey, why haven’t you guys repealed this abomination yet? Do you really want a veto-proof majority of Republicans to do it for you? Why make America suffer in the meantime? Do you just hate us?”

  2. Until a significant number of Democrats in Congress are willing to say something, the media will just ignore this story as another example of Republicans not being able to handle a black President. I can’t any Democrats ever doing anything or giving a shit. So at this point, there is little danger of anyone in this administration being held accountable for anything they do, no matter how outrageous.

    1. most don’t want to get dragged into the discussion for fear it might impact their own employment.

  3. And nobody has done any computation on how many of the 2.1 million enrollees are people who already had insurance but had their plans canceled.

    Or what the net change in overall insurance coverage is.

    My guess is that there are at least 500,000 FEWER people with insurance today, factoring in cancellations and the fudging of medicaid numbers by counting re-enrollments. And that doesn’t include people that used to have private insurance and have been forced onto Medicaid instead.

    1. Of course they haven’t. It is the last thing they want.

      At the height of controversy surrounding President Obama’s promises on the federal health care overhaul, U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s office worked assiduously to revise press accounts that 249,000 Coloradans received health care cancellation notices. Because the 249,000 figure was produced inside the Colorado Division of Insurance, Udall’s office lobbied that agency to revise the figure, or revise their definition of what qualified as a cancellation.


      They are going to use every power they have to lie about this and get people to think that their individual case is not indicative of a larger problem.

      1. Ultimately it won’t really matter that much, because even if you can cover up the existence of 6 million plan cancellations and keep it out of the news media, the people who HAD those plans know it, and they all can vote. And they all have friends and family they can talk to.

        And that’s 3 orders of magnitude more than the number of people killed in the Iraq war.

        Virtually EVERYONE, is going to know someone who had their plan canceled and ended up with worse coverage.

        1. I’m not even in that pool, and my premiums have gone up over 20% the last two years, and my deductibles have doubled.

          1. More proof that Obamacare is needed now more than ever.

        2. There’s also a principle known to businesses: when someone is happy with a service, they will usually tell a few people, but when they are unhappy, they will tell many more. That’s going to work against Obamacare.

    2. My guess is that there are at least 500,000 FEWER people with insurance today,

      Add a zero, would be my guess. Around 4 – 6 million people had policies cancelled, last I saw. Could be more, as I’m not sure if those include all the beneficiaries.

      A lot, probably the majority, of the 2.x million enrollees went to Medicaid, which is a welfare program, not insurance.

      Some/many of those who “enrolled” in actual insurance haven’t and won’t pay, so they aren’t insured.

      There’s absolutely no question there are fewer people insured today, even including new Medicaid enrollees, than there were a month ago. The only question is whether its 3 million fewer, or 5 million fewer.

      And that’s not a question the DemOp media will ask or the administration will answer.

  4. “we’ve done our best to provide it to you when we are confident about the accuracy of it”

    Exactly. The disingenuousness, it *burns*.

    1. They have to go through iterations of:

      “These numbers can’t be right. Go back and count them higher.”

      1. You mean “These numbers can’t be right because they don’t support my position. Go back and make them ‘right’.”

  5. We used to have a saying in Accounting: “It isn’t a sale until the check clears.” Anyone want to bet that of the 2.1 million “enrolled” a good 50% won’t ever pay their first month premium?

    1. Yes. The Obamacare numbers is what happens when you take the sales guys’ lead sheet as closed.

      1. And report them as earnings to the SEC.

        1. Apparently, the SEC is totally okay with it as long as your auditors sign off on it for years at a time.

  6. Carney enjoys serving his presidential Boss Tweed, it really appeals to his inner low-life white-collar criminal.

    1. How do you like his beard? Makes him appear more grown-up, doesn’t it?

      1. His face was made for slapping. Continuous slapping.

      2. Appearances aside, being grown up comes from the inside.

    2. Carney is our own domestic version of Baghdad Bob.

      1. Never thought of it that way, but you have a point.

    3. I say it every time, but I am shocked that Neither Scott McClellan nor Robert Gibbs will go down as the worst WH Press Secretary of the century.

    4. No. You have to give Baghdad Carney his due. The man is a baaaad MF.

      Can you imagine the difficulties of his job ? This guy gets up every day and defends the indefensible. I would love to have Carney covering my 6.

  7. Nor do we know how many people have enrolled in Medicaid thanks to Obamacare. The administration reports some four million sign-ups between October and November, but that figure includes people who were already eligible and got coverage for the first time as well as Medicaid beneficiaries who were renewing their existing enrollments, including those residing in states that did not participate in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. An estimate by Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics suggests that the number of enrollees whose coverage was only possible through Obamacare could be an order of magnitude smaller?perhaps less than 380,000.

    Yeah, that’s pretty much the a running gag: “hey, let’s pretend that everyone who’s signed up for medicaid is a victory for Obamacare!”

    As if we never had medicare before.

    1. God, it’s too fucking early. Why do you people want to do everything from 9-5?

      The optimal time to do anything is between 9PM-2PM.

  8. “Jay Carney applauded the administration’s openness regarding data related to Obamacare performance and implementation.”

    The administration that celebrates itself.

    1. *Openly* and *transparently* celebrates itself.

  9. I have a friend in his 30’s who just signed up, had no issues with the website, is getting a subsidy to lower the costs and thinks he’s getting a great deal. When I said that he could have bought insurance before that would’ve been similar he said it was too hard and the site (plus the subsidy) made it worthwhile for him. And since he never went to the doctor for much of anything before he probably won’t even use it that much.

    I tried to explain to him that the subsidies and the extended coverage for things neither he nor I actually need is raising overall healthcare costs he basically said “so what? I finally have insurance. I could care less what happens to everyone else.”

    This will be a common theme amongst people getting insurance, and they will be hard to convince of the negative consequences of the law until they actually have to use their insurance.

    1. Your friend only thinks that because he didn’t have insurance before. The number of people who didn’t have insurance, have it now, and are happy to buy it, is pretty small when compared to the number of people who have lost their insurance over this.

      1. Maybe so, but who do you think is going to get more airtime?

        Prepare for the deluge of sob stories about the people whose LIVES WERE SAVED thanks to Obamacare. They’ve already begun and it’s only going to get worse.

        Meanwhile the several million whose financial lives were turned upside down due to Obamacare will become a “right wing fallacy”.

        1. That might work but I doubt it. The people whose lives were fucked by this know what happened. All the media can do is try and convince them that they were just unlucky. But given the huge numbers of people in the same situation, that will be a tough sell. More likely the people who got fucked are going to resent and hate the people like your friend and shoving his example in their face is likely to do a lot more harm than good.

          1. I’m not convinced the media snow job won’t be enough to overcome the huge numbers of people who got screwed by this.

            The way they’ve been covering for President Not My Fault is unprecedented and I see no reason to believe it will change. We recently had our former defense secretary come out and say our President doesn’t really give a shit about Afghanistan and it got pretty much been buried aside from an initial burst of publicity.

            They are going to pull out all the stops to defend this disaster.

            1. Sure they will. But showing how people like your friend got over is pretty unlikely to help.

          2. Yeah, the kid in the neighborhood who got a pony from “Santa” is pretty popular…until the other kids find out they got less toys so “Santa” could pay for the other kid’s pony.

    2. “so what? I finally have insurance. I could care less what happens to everyone else.”

      A libertarian, eh? 😉

      1. Dunno if you’re joking, but that’s one of the ironies of this debate. If you say to a proggie “just leave people alone and mind your own business” you are the one called a fascist oppressor.

        It makes keeping faith in the human race pretty damn hard sometimes.

    3. Your friend sounds like a selfish idiot.

      1. He isn’t generally, but he is when it comes to this particular issue. I just ended the conversation and changed the subject.

        I have to do that a lot when my friends start up political conversations. I’m sure you guys are familiar with this.

        1. Change the subject? I can do that? Just take people as they are and let them be wrong? Are you sure?

        2. Wait until he actually has to use the insurance for something major and realizes what a “deductible” is.

          Then the premium he is paying won’t seem like such an awesome deal.

    4. I tried to explain to him that the subsidies and the extended coverage for things neither he nor I actually need is raising overall healthcare costs he basically said “so what? I finally have insurance. I could care less what happens to everyone else.”

      I would suggest really embracing your friend, and making him an important part of your life. Put a lot of trust in him. Start a business partnership, or something. Sounds perfect.

    5. I have a friend in his 30’s who just signed up, had no issues with the website, is getting a subsidy to lower the costs and thinks he’s getting a great deal.

      How much is he paying after the subsidies?

      If he doesn’t go to the doctor often, he may decide after a few months that the premium isn’t such a great deal afterall.

      1. ^This. If he’s completely broke and get’s a huge subsidy then it might seem like a good deal. If he does get sick or injured he might find the insurance has limited value with the high deductibles and out-of-pocket. If he breaks his arm he’ll still have to pay the deductible and coinsurance before any benefits kick in.

        1. Or, you know whne the day comes that he wants to buy a house or a new car or something and doesn’t have quite enough income for it. Those health insurance premiums will start looking expendable.

    6. he basically said “so what? I finally have insurance. I could care less what happens to everyone else.”

      Ironically, this is Obama’s core support audience. Democrats like to think of themselves as the party of people who look out for others. They’re the polar opposite. They’re the party of people who get their $46,000 disability check for stapling their finger, and don’t give a shit how it’s harming the system.

      1. “I paid in. I earned it.”

      2. Exactly. They claim that people wanting to keep their own money are selfish, but what are the people who go out and collect welfare benefits supposed to be? Altruistic?

        The Democrats are the real party of “I got mine, so fuck you.” They’re all about using pure political power to give benefits to their favored interest groups. Sometimes they even nakedly admit that it’s not about justice at all, it’s about power. “Elections have consequences” etcetera.

    7. Your friend is an idiot.

      If he got by without insurance before because he is in good health then odds are he will be paying premiums, even if subsidized, for insurance he still does not need and almost certainly will collect far less in benefits than he pays in (assuming he ever collects any benefit at all).

      1. Luckily we get to pay his subsidies so that’ll minimize any impact on Mr. Einstein.

    8. I was browsing a local forum a few days ago and someone said that Obamacare was great because their cousin now has insurance and can get that operation they needed. That type of mentality is what Obama and the Democrats were counting on when they passed the law, but I bet they didn’t think they’d be screwing over 10x as many people in the process. Buying votes by offering freebies is nothing new, but you can’t screw over too many people in the process or it will backfire.

  10. Of course ObamaCare has a more fundamental problem than its website-

    It takes about ten years to train a new doctor, so there aren’t going to be any more doctors available. They aren’t going to be working longer hours. The income and substitution effects of higher wages offset each other. Real wages have doubled since the early 70s but hours worked has actually fallen slightly. So the total amount of health care available won’t increase.

    All this extra money flowing into the system will mere cause prices to inflate enough to absorb it all. The rich, being rich, will merely pay the extra. The poor now have their subsidized insurance to buy health care they couldn’t previously afford. They will consume more.

    Since the total is the same, and the poor are getting more, that means the middle class MUST end up consuming less. Even with their ‘better’ insurance, their costs (and health care costs in general obviously) WILL rise enough to negatively impact their consumption.

    It’s a zero sum game. It’s also economics 101.

    Hopefully this will (eventually) costs the Democrats enough votes to significantly change the balance of power. But it isn’t like the Republicans are that much better. Neither side sends actual economists to Congress rather than random jackasses with ‘ideas’.

    1. Worse. Should the power balance change what’s going to happen is that the Repubs will find out how much they like having even more power over people and the councils and commissions created by O’Care will be the perfect payola for favors. Nothing substantive will change.

    2. The problem is as long as there is ANY free market like element of the health care system they will be able to claim it is the evil profit motive and greed that is causing this problem and so single payer and/or nationalization of health care is the only solution

  11. Obama has made certain mountains of taxpayer cash went into the pockets of his unbelievably wealthy banker pals. Now it’s time to fill the pockets of his astronomically wealthy insurance lobby cronies.

    The rest of us poor slobs laboring to foot the bill get to fantasize about what it must be like to have the benefits of criminal connections to the most transparent administration in the history of the Universe.

  12. Paying your first month’s premium is a human right!

  13. up to I saw the check of $8495, I did not believe …that…my best friend actualy earning money part time from their computer.. there friend brother started doing this 4 only fourteen months and as of now cleared the dept on there appartment and got a top of the range Ariel Atom. website here

  14. A redundant, yet important point is that far too many ‘journalists’ have been too busy fawning over this president and his administration (“what enchants you about being president?”) to ask the tough questions and hold our elected officials – ALL of them, accountable. Until Jay Carney ( or __________ )has to stand in front of a room and face a linguistic firing squad, until there are investigative reporters who are looking out for the American people, and not the political elite, these people (D & R) will evade, parse and ignore because they know that nothing will come of it. It’s a damn shame.

    1. Don’t worry, all of this will come to pass about 15 minutes after a Team Red president is sworn in.

  15. I’m told that the penaltax is actually “voluntary”. If I’m not owed tax refunds, the IRS has no real way to collect the penalty if I don’t buy insurance. It this right?

    1. Yes. At least for now. But we all know the law has to be fixed…

      1. Anybody need a sledgehammer?

  16. Im real curious how this will play out……….If one had insurance thru their employer before, now cancelled…….they would get insurance thru the exchanges…..BUT….wont they have to cut a check every month to pay for it, rather than payroll deducted?? When there is still more month at the end of the money…..what are you going to skip first???your car note, or the insurance bill???………yea,….this whole thing is a gateway to single payer, absolutely…..

    1. or with the IRS…… if everyone was required to cut a check to pay taxes every month…..N.O.O.N.E. would pay, so instead….we get payroll deducted taxes……

  17. America If you lose your coverage, your doctor, your insurance, your job, BLAME a Democrat. If your rates go up astronomically and you can’t get what you were promised??Next time you go and vote…remember WHO did this to YOU! DEMOCRATS!

  18. Good commentary!

    I’d like to ask the president about this:

    In 2009, he said Medicaid is “a broken system.” Did he propose plans to fix it? No. He is bringing millions of more Americans into the broken system. This is a prescription for disaster. Here’s why:

    “People respond to incentives, although not necessarily in ways that are predictable or manifest. Therefore, one of the most powerful laws in the universe is the law of unintended consequences.” -From the book “SuperFreakonomics”


    “Obamacare: Making a bad situation worse” at Relevant Matters

    One more question I’d like to ask Obama: Why does your healthcare law discriminate against young men in order to eliminate your imagined discrimination against young women?

    “Women should pay more for healthcare” at ideas.time.com

    “Two takes on Obamacare’s discrimination against men”
    at Male Matters USA

  19. It is amazing that the White House still refuses to print a detailed accounting of the overall costs including the overruns on the contract for the web set up. Also, how in the world did the contract office legally permit a non compete process? In my former Agency only emergencies qualified. Over three years is never an emergency. The GAO and IG should investigate the total process and costs, especially the overruns.

    Congress should instigate a GAO investigation immediately. Heads in HHS contracts should be held accountable as well as information from the HHS contracts office employees how they were pushed to issue a non compete contract when competition was called for. It is a disgrace such foreign incompetents were permitted to steal the taxpayers money.

    1. Well, you see, this is an Obama project, and royalty does as it wants.

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  22. my classmate’s step-aunt makes $84/hour on the computer. She has been without a job for five months but last month her check was $21585 just working on the computer for a few hours. check out here for a work detail go to home tab….


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