The Conversation

White House Claims 7.1 Million Obamacare Enrollments, but How Many Previously Uninsured Have Paid?

The President held a celebration today at the White House to announce that 7.1 million people had signed up for insurance under Obamacare. As Jonathan Strong points out, it was a deeply partisan speech in which the President decried the partisanship of his opponents.

The real problem with Obama's announcement wasn't the tone; it was the false premise. Most of the people who he touted today had insurance before Obamacare came along. In fact, we've had two surveys in recent weeks. The McKinsey survey found that just 27 percent of sign ups were previously uninsured. Yesterday the LA Times revealed details from an unpublished RAND corp. survey which found that "about one-third" of all sign-ups were previously uninsured.

If we assume, best case, that 33 percent of the 7.1 million were previously uninsured, that works out to to about 2.3 million people. But as we all know by now, not everyone who signs up actually pays. The McKinsey survey found that previously uninsured people were far less likely to pay. In fact, just 53 percent followed through. To be generous, let's assume they bring this up to 80 percent. That means the total number of enrolled but previously uninsured people will be about 1.85 million.

That's a lot of newly insured people but it's only a tiny fraction of the 7.1 million announced today or the 45 million uninsured the administration said Obamacare was supposed to address. We've spent four years and hundreds of millions of dollars on websites and media outreach to pick up fewer than 2 million enrollees. And that's not to mention that the vast majority are receiving a government subsidy to offset the cost.

One might look at all of this and conclude we're not getting a lot of bang for our buck. In fact, about 80 percent of the total new enrollment of the previously uninsured (including Medicaid and young adults on parent's plans) could have been accomplished without the exchanges, without knocking 5 million people off their policies, without making people lose doctors, hospitals, etc.

Insurance industry expert Bob Laszewski sees a big letdown coming when people gradually learn about the real Obamacare numbers.

By celebrating seven million enrollments, the administration has set some pretty high expectations: That Obamacare is making a huge dent in the number of those who were uninsured.

But it would appear that is not the case and they will have to manage a steady flow of hard data that will undermine today's celebration––in an election-year.

Eventually the administration is going to pay a price for this ongoing dishonesty.


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