The Conversation

The Obama Administration's Healthcare Math Does Not Add Up

This week the administration claims they have almost broken even on the number of people who gained vs. lost insurance, but they offered no way for anyone to check their math. That's a problem because their claims don't seem to add up.

Health Insurance industry expert Bob Laszewski notes that, once again, the change was made for political reasons without consulting the industry:

This change was brought about when a number of Democratic Senators, some of them facing a tough reelection battle, demanded this concession.

The change was made without consulting the health insurance industry and it was a surprise to them. It is another Obamacare change months after their 2014 rates were set under the presumption all of these cancelled policyholders would be paying a lot more premium into the pool than they pay today

Less than a week before the first big deadline is a bit late for a major change to the mandate. The administration is clearly hitting the panic button. The question is why they are doing so. They gave us a hint on Thursday.

Thursday the administration announced they were only 500,000 short of having everyone who lost insurance get replacement insurance. That number does not appear in Sec. Sebelius letter to Sen. Warner. Sebelius merely says "there still may be a small number of consumers who are not able to renew their existing plans."

I'm not sure that 500,000 counts as a "small number" but the real problem is that 500,000 is probably too small based on what we know from other sources. Last month Bob Laszewski and Megyn Kelly presented a map which suggested at least 4.2 million people had lost insurance under Obamacare. Other estimates have been higher, in the range of 6 million.

This raises an obvious question about the administration's math. If 4 million lost insurance and only 500,000 have yet to gain it back, then the other 3.5 million people must have already gotten replacement plans. But how is that possible? As of Nov. 30th only 1.2 million had enrolled total, including all the people who signed up for Medicaid.

Even if we allow the number enrolled as of this week to creep up to 2 million, as the President suggested yesterday, we're still missing more than a million people somewhere. And again, maybe that number is higher or lower depending on how many people actually lost insurance.

There could be some completely reasonably way to make these numbers add up. For instance, the administration might have a more accurate count from insurers of how many cancellation notices went out, though if this number was lower than advertised you'd think they'd be eager to share that news.

The bottom line is that enrollment numbers are much lower than expected. If a net loss narrative takes hold in the media the entire law could be judged a failure, even on its own terms. That's probably a worst case scenario for the administration. Politically it would make Obamacare susceptible to further modification by Congress. They have to push back on this.

And they did this week with the 500,000 announcement. But given the recent Lie of the Year designation and an even more pertinent instance where the White House played fast and loose with numbers, we really need to see their math on this one.


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