I was recently reminded of a line from Mark Twain’s autobiography: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Another way of thinking is that in order for statistics to be meaningful, they must be scrutinized. The recent statistic that 16.4 million people have gained insurance under Obamacare invites our scrutiny.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the uninsured rate dropped 35 percent from October 2013 through March 4, 2015.
First, we need to question where that number came from. According to the Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation (APSE, a division within HHS) the number comes from extrapolating (speculating, interpreting) polling data.
Why didn’t HHS simply count up the number of people who have insurance because of Obamacare? Two reasons come to mind: first, Healthcare.Gov is still not completely working and there is no way to determine the number of people with insurance, and/or a count was performed and the answer was not favorable to the administration’s position.
Next, we question why the administration attributes the entire number to Obamacare. They fail to acknowledge any contribution by employer-sponsored health insurance or individual purchase in decreasing the level of uninsured. The administration also fails to differentiate how many of these are enrolled in private insurance vs Medicaid – a government program. It is important to note that in some states, Medicaid has a history of poorer health outcomes than no insurance at all.
My third point is that the Obama administration continues to use the numbers of people enrolled in Obamacare as a surrogate for people who are actually receiving healthcare. Having an insurance card does not mean you have healthcare. Many constituents continue to relate their disappointment in Obamacare when they find the premiums are more than they can afford. Still others have paid their premiums and then are hit with sticker shock when they must pay high copayments and deductibles.
Receiving an Obamacare insurance card is a lot like being sold a ticket on an overbooked flight. Even though you have a ticket, you don’t get to go where you want when you want.
Republicans have a number of ideas to increase access to affordable healthcare. These policies will protect people from insurance company practices such as: denial for preexisting conditions, dropping people when they get sick, or capping benefits.
With an eye to bringing down the cost of healthcare, Republicans have worked on policies to reduce medical malpractice. Frivolous lawsuits drive up healthcare cost for all of us. HHS estimates that defensive medicine costs between $70 and $126 billion per year. That money should be going to deliver actual healthcare to patients and not to line the pockets of trial lawyers.
I have introduced legislation to increase competition among insurance companies with the ultimate goal of lowering the price. If enacted, H.R. 543 would empower consumers by giving them the ability to purchase affordable health insurance with a range of options. Americans would be allowed to shop for health insurance just like they do for other insurance products – online, by mail, over the phone, or in consultation with an insurance agent in their hometown.
The bottom line is that after 5 years, it is clearer than ever, Obamacare is wrong for America. It is too expensive, does not deliver on its promises, and there are better alternatives. Let’s get rid of the smoke and mirrors.
Congressman Marsha Blackburn is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving the Seventh Congressional District of Tennessee. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is a Member of the House Budget Committee.