5 Reasons Obama's 7.1 Million Number Is Meaningless

On Tuesday, President Obama triumphantly announced that, with the power of the mainstream media, Hollywood, and the threat of the IRS, the mission had been accomplished: 7.1 million Americans had selected an Obamacare plan. 

Obama’s tone was nothing short of exuberant: “7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these market places. 7.1! Yep!” He then went on to criticize those who had expressed objections to Obamacare for its deprivations of plans, doctors, drugs, and liberty: “Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance?”

Now, it was always foolhardy for Republicans and conservatives to stake their objections to Obamacare on the number of sign-ups; Social Security is going bankrupt despite 100% enrollment. The reality is that Obama was always destined to hit his required numbers because, after all, he has the power of government to compel action. The real problem with Obamacare has little to do with the number of people signing up, and a lot to do with the restrictions on insurance companies and reimbursement rates to doctors.

Nonetheless, the 7.1 million statistic is a meaningless one. It’s meaningless for a variety of reasons:

It Doesn’t Measure How Many People Have Actually Paid. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted yesterday that of the 6 million people who had signed up for Obamacare at the time, “What we know from insurance companies…tell us that, for their initial customers, it’s somewhere between 80, 85, some say as high as 90 percent, have paid so far.” In other words, about five million people were signed up. As Aaron Blake of the Washington Post points out, “If between 80 and 90 percent of the six million have paid premiums, the number who are fully enrolled would be closer to five million than to six million.” With the increased number of sign-ups in the last days, that percentage number has likely dropped. This is not an unimportant distinction; insurance will not cover those who don’t pay.

7.1 Million Enrollees in the Private Exchanges Doesn’t Mean 7.1 Million Who Were Previously Uninsured. Some five million Americans saw their policies cancelled thanks to Obamacare. Those Americans were forced into the Obamacare exchanges by the government. According to a RAND Corporation study, only 858,000 previously uninsured Americans had actually joined Obamacare. That’s a far cry from 7.1 million.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in March 2010 that 37.3% of all uninsured Americans would gain insurance thanks to Obamacare in 2014. That estimate rose to 38.9% in March 2011. In February 2014, the CBO suggested that in 2014, 22.8% would gain insurance through Obamacare. The actual statistic: 12.5%. In other words, the original estimates were off by approximately 66%.

The Chief Beneficiaries of Obamacare Have Been Medicaid Recipients and 26-Year-Old Basement Dwellers. There are approximately 6.1 million people who have gained coverage through Obamacare’s non-private exchange program. 4.5 million were beneficiaries of Medicaid expansion, and another 1.6 million 26-year-old “children” were forced onto their parents’ policies. That far outweighs any supposed gains in the private insurance market. As Chris Conover of Forbes writes, “At the end of the day, we appear to have covered 1 in 8 uninsured, but to get to this point, we have disrupted coverage for millions, increased premiums for tens of millions more and amplified the pain even further with a blizzard of new taxes and fees that will end up cost even the lowest income families nearly $7,000 over a decade.”

The Huge Majority of Those Signing Up Are Getting Subsidies – and Even Those Who Are Subsidized Aren’t Signing Up. In order for Obamacare’s cost structure to work, millions of Americans must sign up to pay inflated prices; that would help pay for the subsidies to cover insurance company costs on those with pre-existing conditions. In March, the Obama administration reported that 83% of those who had signed up were eligible for subsidies. As Robert Laszewski estimates, in the end, just 27% of those who are eligible for Obamacare subsidies nationwide have signed up.

How Much Will The Numbers Drop? These are all preliminary statistics. We now know that somewhere between 2% and 5% of people who paid their insurance bills in January did not do so in February, to go along with the high percentage of people who signed up and never paid at all (that number in Obamacare success story Washington state, for example, was 39% as of early February).

The 7.1 million statistic is not all that important, in the end. Obama will hit his numbers, by hook or by crook. Likely by crook. But conservative opposition to Obamacare should not be predicated on its ineffectiveness in forcing sign-ups. Instead, it should be based on deprivation of liberty and destruction of medical care.

Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.


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