This October will be the one year anniversary of the ObamaCare healthcare exchange rollout. After a disastrous start, this spring 8 million Americans signed on—one million more than projected. But as Reason’s Peter Suderman explains, there’s a lot less to this “success” story than meets the eye:
The administration's single most prominent piece of evidence that Obamacare is a success is that it surpassed expectations by signing up 8 million people for coverage. That statistic, however, leaves out an important detail: how many of those 8 million have actually enrolled. …What's less clear is how many of those people followed up by paying their first month's premium, a requirement for coverage.
If 85 percent of the 8 million sign-ups end up paying, then the true exchange-enrollment total is more like 6.8 million. Even a 10 percent reduction would still knock 800,000 off the administration's sign-up total-far better than prospects looked in the law's darkest days, but still substantially less than the headline figure the administration advertised.
But that’s not all. Remember: for ObamaCare to stay afloat financially, huge numbers of young (healthy) people have to sign up and subsidize it. Again, Suderman notes that we’re not even close:
In background briefings with various reporters in the summer of 2013, the White House said that the goal, based on estimates by the CBO, was to have 39 percent of all enrollees to be between the ages of 18 and 35. So what was the final total? Just 28 percent of sign-ups were in that age range.
The exchange enrollees are not just older; they're probably sicker, too. An April study by pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts found that use of expensive specialty drugs by early exchange enrollees is 47 percent higher than is typical for those enrolled in employer health insurance, usually a sign of a less healthy population.
Another issue the administration isn’t trumpeting is the fact that states need to meet their specific enrollment targets since insurance markets are regulated and divided according to state lines. Suderman continues:
By the middle of April, 22 states had met or exceeded their initial enrollment targets. …That left slightly more than half the states below their stated targets. …Complicating matters further is that several of the state-run exchanges continue to struggle with major technical malfunctions throughout open enrollment, and a few are essentially inoperable…
But for the last four years, polls have consistently shown that more of the public disapproves of the health law than approves of it, and large segments of the population support repealing it entirely. …On average, polls show that just over 52 percent of the public opposed Obamacare as of May, according to RealClearPolitics. That's up slightly from an average of about 48 percent between the summer of 2012 and summer 2013. At the same time, 48 percent of the public wants Obamacare wiped from the books entirely, according to a May Politico poll, and another 35 percent say they want the law fixed and modified. Just 16 percent think it should be left alone.
"Based on what you know now," the poll asked, after noting the president's defense of the law and Republicans' ongoing criticism, "do you believe that the debate on Obamacare should be over, or not?" Some 60 percent of respondents said they believed discussion about the law's merits should continue.
President Obama may believe, as he insists, that the debate over Obamacare is now over, but as his power wanes, the public continues to disagree.