February 26 2014
Slicing and Dicing the ObamaCare Numbers
Patrice J. Lee
You can get numbers to say pretty much anything. By selectively setting parameters around a data set and setting broad or narrow definitions, a person can manipulate data to support just about any specious argument. It’s a tool commonly used in Washington and one the White House is beginning to lean on to explain ObamaCare’s missing enrollment projections.
Some 700,000 people have enrolled in ObamaCare in February, raising total enrollment to roughly 4 million according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
As you know, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that 7 million people would sign up for ObamaCare during this initial enrollment period that ends March 31. Under the ObamaCare individual mandate, any Americans caught without proof of healthcare coverage by this date will face tax penalties. Seven million was the Administration’s goal until the bottom of their enrollment basket fell out because of the woeful healthcare.gov website rollout.
Just what are their expectations now? It depends on who you talk to.
Last week, Vice President Joe Biden shrugged off enrollment expectations saying, “We may not get to seven million, we may get to five or six, but that's a hell of a start.” I give him credit for his honesty.
This week Kathleen Sebelius tried to walk back expectations by changing the Administration’s enrollment targets. In 2013 she said the 7 million CBO enrollment estimate was a hopeful target for the Administration. Now, she’s distancing herself from her own statements.
“First of all, 7 million was not the administration,” Sebelius told Huff Post Live in an interview Tuesday. “That was a CBO, Congressional Budget Office prediction when the bill was first signed. I’m not quite sure where they even got their number. Their number’s all over the board, and you know, the vice president has looked and said it may be closer to 5 to 6. I’m more interested in what we are doing today: getting the word out to target populations.”
The President won’t concede to reality. He’s taking a wholly different approach. Instead of moving the goal line forward he’s adding more players to the field that aren’t even on the team.
The President is now including young people, who have been allowed to stay on their parents’ healthcare insurance plans until they’re 26 years old, in the total ObamaCare enrollment count to lead you to think they’ve hit 7 million. Here’s what he said:
“We now have more than 4 million Americans who have signed up for quality, affordable health insurance,” Obama said. “Four million. That's on top of the 3 million young people who have been able to get covered staying on their parents plan… you've already made sure people all across America are getting better coverage.”
That’s disingenuous. These young people never enrolled in ObamaCare and they were not part of the equation the CBO considered in deriving its estimate. To add them now is blatantly padding the numbers.
And let’s not forget that the Administration defines enrollment loosely. Whereas insurance companies only consider you enrolled after you’ve made your first payment, the Administration thinks once you’ve selected a plan you’re in. The number of people who have actually purchased coverage is likely significantly lower. Analysts estimate some 20 percent of “enrollees” haven’t paid their first month's premium, meaning roughly 800,000 of the 4 million.
So we don’t really know just where enrollment is, but we do know it won’t be seven million.
We also know that young, healthy Americans, a coveted demographic needed to pay for older, sicker Americans in the ObamaCare model, also lag in signing up. The Administration knows they need the right mix of young and old to make the system work economically.
Perhaps that’s why the Administration has no plans to release any more demographic data on who has enrolled. This information tells us whether enrollees were previously uninsured Americans (the goal of ObamaCare) and their ages. Youth enrollment has been a dud and more Americans have been left uninsured because of ObamaCare than those who actually enrolled.
No matter how you slice the numbers, ObamaCare is harmful to our labor market and a bad deal for young Americans. We’re smart enough to know it. Perhaps now the Administration is catching on.