The Los Angeles Times greeted the Obamacare enrollment data on Monday with a striking headline, claiming that “at least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gained coverage,” which is 3 million people more than the Obama administration itself claimed last week (a number that was itself highly questionable, since it did not exclude those who had not paid for their new insurance). The Times‘ analysis, however, is laughable.
The data reported by Noam. N. Levey are not actual counts of enrollees, but a hodgepodge of “state and federal enrollment reports, surveys and interviews with insurance executives and government officials nationwide.”
The idea that “interviews with…government officials” who have a political stake in the final numbers could be an objective measure of progress, or combined analytically with enrollment numbers, is ridiculous on its face.
Furthermore, most of the 3.5 million additional enrollees are entirely accounted for by the 3 million “children” who are now insured up to the age of 26 on their parents’ insurance. That coverage was provided by Obamacare but has nothing to do with the Obamacare exchanges or the open enrollment period that ends March 31.
The pro-Obamacare bias of the Los Angeles Times piece is evident throughout, but never more so than when Levey attempts to dispute the fact that more people have lost their insurance through Obamacare-caused cancellations than have gained it back through enrollment in new policies. Levey writes (emphasis added):
Republican critics of the law have suggested that the cancellations last fall have led to a net reduction in coverage.
That is not supported by survey data or insurance companies, many of which report they have retained the vast majority of their 2013 customers by renewing old policies, which is permitted in about half the states, or by moving customers to new plans.
If companies only “retained the vast majority of their 2013 customers,” without increase, that means they have suffered a net loss of customers. Hence those “Republican critics of the law” are actually correct.
Levey quotes Katherine Carman of the Rand Corporation in support of his arguments: “‘We are talking about a very small fraction of the country’ who lost coverage,” he quotes her as saying.
What Levey neglects to inform the readers is that Carman’s economic research focuses on opinion of the Affordable Care Act.
Levey’s article, in sum, is not a true verdict but the latest media effort to spin for Obama.