Why All the Celebration?

Tim Sandefur has dissected the hoopla concerning the Obamacare enrollment numbers, and I encourage you to read his post in full. I just want to highlight a couple of things from his post. Sandefur points us to this link, which has Ed Rogers highlighting some rather crucial context for the signup numbers:

Substantively, the administration is refusing to acknowledge a few essential points.  One, the original definition of “success” — the CBO number they adopted as their own —was 7 million enrollees.  And next, an estimated 20 percent of the alleged 6 million enrollees have not paid their premiums, which means they do not actually have insurance.  That leaves us with 4.8 million enrollees at best, without discounting duplicate enrollments, unfinished applications and any other factors that would diminish the number who have actually signed up for Obamacare.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius continues to stonewall Congress and to claim that HHS does not know how many people have paid their premiums.  In response, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) wrote her a letter saying, “We have recently obtained information that suggests your most recent testimony before the Ways and Means Committee was at best evasive and perhaps misleading.” (Camp and Brady are such gentlemen.)  The letter continued, “Insurers are submitting information to CMS about who has effectuated their enrollment, i.e. who has paid their premium.  Please provide this information in its most updated form immediately.”  In other words, the administration has the data but doesn’t want to release it because it would derail their narrative that Obamacare has reached a point where something meaningful has happened.

But, oh, by the way, the most stunning omission from the White House, Sebelius, et. al. is that Obamacare has failed miserably in its original purpose — insuring the uninsured.  President Obama and his Democratic allies can claim that 6 million people have gotten insurance, but we still don’t know how many of those are newly insured.

Regardless of the number of enrollees, or the number of people who are receiving subsidies, or how many people are able to keep their doctor, the bottom line is that Obamacare’s success should be based on the number of people who have insurance today who were uninsured before Obamacare was passed.  Of course, that’s not something the administration will even admit they are tracking. What does that tell you?  After all the insurance cancellations, the administration’s insistence that 6 million people now have insurance because of Obamacare is a lot like firing 20 people, hiring 18 of them back and claiming that you have created 18 new jobs.  In other words, nobody knows what the net number of people insured is once you have factored in how many people lost their insurance because of Obamacare.

Also via Sandefur is this post by Robert Laszewski. Key passage:

What happens when the real number––the number of people who actually completed their enrollment––comes in far below the seven million?

What happens when the hard data shows that most of these seven million were people who had coverage before?

What happens when it becomes clear that the Obamacare insurance exchanges are making hardly a dent in the number of those uninsured?

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the non-profit Rand Corporation estimated that two-thirds of the first six million people to enroll in Obamacare were previously insured––only two million were previously uninsured.

If all of the one million people who signed up in the last week were previously uninsured, that would mean that only three million previously uninsured people have purchased coverage in the government-run exchanges.

Rand also estimated that about nine million people have enrolled directly with the insurance companies, bypassing the government-run exchanges. But Rand also reported that the vast majority of those were previously insured.

Good questions, all. Of course, very few people are paying attention, since they appear to be entranced with the Obama administration’s claim that “7.1 million people” have signed up for Obamacare. But so long as we don’t know how many of those people (a) were previously uninsured; (b) paid the premiums; (c) actually went through the government exchanges; and (d) are young, healthy people the system desperately needs in order to balance out the risk posed by older people with pre-existing conditions, we are in no position to celebrate anything.

And of course, we can’t get any of this information, because the White House conveniently claims that it doesn’t have it. That lack of information doesn’t stop the Obama administration from celebrating. But it should stop the rest of us.

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