The Obama administration is always a fan of big numbers. Today they are trumpeting the claim that 2.1 million people have signed up for coverage under Obamacare since October 1st. There are actually at least four caveats to this big number which make it less impressive that it first appears.
1) It Fell Short of Projections by Over a Million People – While 2.1 million is a lot of people, as I pointed out yesterday, it’s far below HHS’ projections for where they would be now. To be specific, the administration anticipated 3.3 million would be enrolled by now, meaning they fell 1.2 million–or about 50 percent–short.
2) Hundreds of Thousands Haven’t Paid Their First Premium Yet – The Examiner‘s Philip Klein makes the case that it is misleading for journalists to report the administration’s 2.1 million enrollment claim as fact when a significant number of these people have not yet and, for various reasons, may not ever pay their first premium. We don’t know how many people could be affected but if it’s even a small amount, say 15 percent, we’re talking about 300,000 people. This matters because after January 10th these people will be starting over.
3) More Than 2.1 Million People Had Their Insurance Canceled – Estimates vary on the number of people nationwide who had their insurance cancelled because of Obamacare. Some have suggested the number is between 4.5 and 6 million. Two weeks ago the Obama administration claimed that there were only 500,000 people who had lost insurance who had yet to gain it back. That number seemed low but it’s worth noting that, at least so far, no one has claimed they have closed that gap. In other words, even if you ignore point #2 and grant them 2.1 million, Obamcare is still a net loss in the number of people insured.
4) Many the Administration is Touting as Newly Insured Had a Bad Experience – ABC News covers this rather significant caveat to the big number by relating the experience of Ted and Maxine Baumgartner of Indiana. Ted and Maxine are in their 60s and only a few years away from being covered by Medicare. Thanks to Obamacare, Maxine lost her coverage this year (point #3). It took her and her husband “80 hours online and more than a dozen hours on the phone, an enrollmentapplication that never made it to the insurer, and a stinging case ofpremium sticker-shock” to get a new policy. Eventually she made it, making her a success story in the eyes of the administration. What kind of success?
Their $699 monthly premium for a mid-tier “silver plan” was offset bya $595 a month tax subsidy, leaving a balance of just $104 out ofpocket.
That amount is still about four times what they paid last year forcoverage, Baumgartner said, but the new plan is loaded with addedbenefits. Of those, however, Ted Baumgartner has a mixed view.
“Some of the free preventive care would probably help some. But a62-year-old woman doesn’t need maternity. She doesn’t need abortion,” hesaid.
So some significant portion of the people HHS is claiming as a sign of success are actually annoyed at what they’ve been forced to go through despite the President’s big lie about keeping plans they had and liked.
5) The Administration Won’t Say What Percentage of Those “Enrolled” Are Young – The magic number here is somewhere around 38-39 percent. That’s how many of the 2.1 million need to be young and healthy in order to make the program work as planned. Despite being asked multiple times by reporters from left, right and center, the administration will not release any information. Maybe they’re saving the good news for another day but probably not but probably that’s not the reason they are keeping it to themselves. Early enrollment definitely skewed older. That’s to be expected to some degree but as with point #3, the administration had ground to make up before claiming success.
So when you hear that Obamacare enrolled 2.1 million, remember that it fell well short of expectations (point 1), does not reflect the number of people who are actually enrolled (point 2), is still a net negative in terms of overall enrollment (point 3), includes loads of people who only needed insurance because Obamacare canceled the plans they had but could not keep (point 4) and at the end of the day matters less than the stat the administration does not want to talk about (point 5). There’s no doubt that some or all of these problems can be overcome with time, effort and money, but right now the record is still not that impressive.