The White House loves a big number to sell the success of its policies. When it comes to Obamacare enrollment, the big number has come primarily from Medicaid enrollment totals. But a new estimate reveals the extent to which those totals are inflated, counting millions of people who would have enrolled even without Obamacare.
Last month, HHS reported “between October and December over 6.3 million individuals were
determined eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP through state agencies
and through state-based Marketplaces.” In the same announcement, HHS added the caveat that the 6.3 million figure included “determinations made on prior law, and in some states, Medicaid renewals
and groups not affected by the health care law.”
Obviously if we’re looking for the number of people enrolled in Medicaid
as a result of Obamacare, we want the change from previous months
before the law took effect, not a figure that includes people who would have enrolled with or without the new law.
Philip Klein at the Examiner catches a new estimate of Medicaid enrollment by Avalere Health which gets us closer to the real Medicaid enrollment total. “On average, we have seen a 12 percent increase in Medicaid applications
compared to the typical rates before ACA, with a higher uptick of 19
percent among expansion states” says Avalere’s Vice President Caroline Pearson.
What that means is that rather than 6.3 million new Medicaid enrollees as HHS claimed, the actual number is somewhere between 1.1 and 1.8 million. Avalere made the estimate by comparing enrollment from October through December to average enrollment over the previous three months. (Note that Avalere used averages in some places where state data was not available.)
These misleading Medicaid enrollment numbers have now been called into question on the left, right and center. There is literally no informed person who thinks these figures are kosher. And yet, as Philip Klein points out, President Obama claimed during his State of the Union speech that “nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.” But that’s only true if you’re willing to count 4.5-5.2 million people who would have signed for Medicaid anyway. At what point is the White House going to acknowledge reality on this issue?