Obamacare's Underwhelming Success in California


credit—Scott Smith (SRisonS) / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Supporters of Obamacare have pointed to California as one of the law's biggest success stories. After some initial glitches, the health exchange has, by most accounts, been mostly functional. The state's exchange accounted for the lion's share of private health insurance sign-ups nationally during the early months of open enrollment. And reports suggest that, even in 2014, is has continued to add new sign ups at a solid clip. Earlier this month reported that just over 500,000 people had signed up for policies in the exchange by the end of 2013, and that early reports indicated that about 625,000 had signed up by January 15. That put the state on track to meet its enrollment target of about 500,000 to 700,000 for the year.

But those numbers don't tell the whole story. For one thing, they don't tell you how many people have actually paid for their plans. Insurance industry consultant Robert Laszewski has said that he expects that 10-20 percent of sign-ups will not result in an enrollment because of non-payment.

The headline numbers also don't tell you how many people signing up for coverage in the state's exchange are actually getting coverage for the first time, and how many were previously covered—and are simply moving into the exchanges because their old policies were canceled.

When you factor in cancellations, the picture no longer looks quite so bright. In October, a spokesperson for the state's exchange estimated that about 900,000 individual market plans would be canceled in the state by January 1 of this year as a result of Obamacare—a figure that the state exchange recently confirmed to The Weekly Standard's John McCormack (who wrote about the gap between sign-ups and cancellations last week).

So even if the state hits the top end of its enrollment target, the state will still have had more canceled existing policies than exchange enrollments—in a state that received more than $900 million in federal grants to build and advertise its exchange. In context, California's experience with Obamacare so far looks less like a success story and more like a reminder of how low the bar for success under the law has been set. 

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  1. It’s already been splained by smart liberals, who are the smartest people on earth, that any rumors of the failure of Obamacare are all lies spread by the Koch money machine.

    So, why are we having this discussion?

    1. There is that and also Obamacare is here to stay. It is the law. It is too late to change it. People who point to these failures are just racists who can’t get over the fact that there is a black President and just move on to more important issues like the minimum wage and birth control.

      1. The one and only reason for not adoring dear leader and his agenda is being racist.

        But take it easy on the poor libbies, John. They just got their little hearts broken once again when everyone found out that the Columbia Mall shooter wasn’t a whitey teabagger.

        1. After the heartbreak of not being able to use those dead kids in Newtown for political gain, that must have really hurt.

          1. I hate that pro-2A supporters have to be insensitive to the dead because anti-gun people try to use the dead to reach their goals. We should be able to say it is a sad situation when people needlessly die and that be it. Not turn every tragedy into a debate.

            1. It is not the pro 2nd amendment people who lapped up the blood of those kids. I am saying nothing about the underlying tragedy. I am merely called the gun control nuts the evil ghouls they are.

            2. No one is being insensitive here. It’s the anti-gun hysteria crowd and their political leaders jumping on the backs of dead children to use for their political goals. It’s sickening, and they deserve every bit of scorn that they get, and more. That’s not being insensitive to victims, it’s being critical of the ones who are being insensitive, the anti-gun crowd.

              1. I see your point but the fact that references to the mall shooting also have to include a side note about how anti-gun people are sad they can’t stand on the bodies, is sad in itself. We should be able to see a random shooting and have sympathy for the victims without having to think about politics. If anti-gun people wouldn’t use shootings as political capital, I feel we could.

                1. I am not pointing to the shooting Floridian. I am pointing to the actions of the gun control people.

                2. We should be able to see a random shooting and have sympathy for the victims without having to think about politics.

                  we should and in a sane world, that would be possible. But this world includes proggies, who are the opposite of sane, and fighting by regular rules just means you lose.

    2. My progressive acquaintances also tell me that one success of Obamacare proves that it’s a success across the board. The plural of “anecdote” really is “data.”

  2. Yeah, I’m sure NBC Nightly News will get right on reporting those nuances.

    1. If they can fit it in at the end of maybe the Sunday night news that runs opposite the Super Bowl. I mean they have a lot of really important stuff to cover; like Michelle’s new workout routine and how the governor or New Jersey may have created a traffic jam on the GW bridge.

    2. After Rachel “look at me as I speak really fast w/ a condescending smirk” Madcow and his kid sister Chrissy “mom, make life fair for me” Hayes do a week of shows about that awful NJ governor.

  3. Califoria got $900 million in free money didn’t they? Success!

  4. The headline numbers also don’t tell you how many people signing up for coverage in the state’s exchange are actually getting coverage for the first time, and how many were previously covered?and are simply moving into the exchanges because their old policies were canceled.

    Coverages “created or saved”.

  5. You compare the number of individuals with new exchange insurance to number of individuals with cancelled policies.

    To make this more persuasive, I think you need to factor in how many of the individuals cancelled out of old non-ACA plans replaced their insurance outside of the exchange. IF that number in California is negligible, then it could be ignored, if the number is small, then it would make the argument in this article useful, if the number is large, your reasoning is specious, and if the number just can’t be estimated, then the article is unpersuasive. But you probably knew all that already and chose to leave it out.

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