WASHINGTON — Obamacare’s six-month enrollment period ended Monday, with the administration claiming that more than 6 million people signed up. But there are lots of reasons why its claims of success should be taken with a large grain of salt.
Remember, this is the administration that promised us that if you liked the health insurance plan you had, you could keep it. No one could take it away from you. That turned out to be one of President Obama’s biggest whoppers when 5 million Americans had their policies canceled because they didn’t meet Obamacare’s rigid mandates.
Additional claims being made about the health care law remind me of a long-ago TV ad where a shady salesman, when his customers questioned his promises, would reply, “Well, not exactly.”
There are lots of “not exactlys” in this administration’s dubious claims about where Obamacare stands right now after its first six-month sign-up period.
Let’s start with the White House’s questionable spiel that it has reached its goal of 6 million Americans who have signed up for plans in the health insurance exchanges since Oct. 1 of last year.
The Washington Post’s Jason Millman seriously doubted this claim Tuesday in a revealing Q&A article. One question was: “Six million exchange sign-ups — so, the administration hit its goal?”
His answer: “Not exactly. For starters, the administration says it never set a specific goal, though it did previously adopt the Congressional Budget Office’s earlier estimate that 7 million would enroll in exchanges. The CBO later revised the estimate down to 6 million after technical problems hindered the first two months of enrollment.” But no one really knows.
That’s why there was growing skepticism about the 6 million sign-up claim on Capitol Hill. “They are cooking the books on this,” says Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
The truth is, despite the administration’s claims, there’s no official data about who has signed up thus far. We don’t know how many of these are people who had insurance before and are switching to subsidized policies under Obamacare. Neither do we know how many signed up and paid for their policies.
Obama is suggesting that, with the latest sign-ups, the number of uninsured is dropping accordingly: “I’d say that we’re on our way to making sure that no American ever has to go without health insurance.”
Well, not exactly. There’s a general estimate of how many have newly enrolled in Medicaid for lower-income people, and of young adults who, under Obamacare, are now on their parents’ medical care plans.
However, “we don’t know how many of those signing up … were previously uninsured,” Millman writes.
Actually, it’s a wild exaggeration for Obama to even say that we are on our way to a time when every American will have health care insurance. Close to 30 million Americans still won’t have insurance coverage under Obamacare, according to a new analysis in the medical journal Health Affairs.
“Even if the law were fully implemented, there would have been 26 million uninsured people,” the study’s co-author Steffie Woolhandler told the Post in an interview Thursday. “This … is the system as originally designed.”
The CBO, the auditing arm of Congress, estimated more than a year ago that more than 26 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 44 would not have health insurance under the expansion of medical care coverage.
The administration still insists that Obamacare will not drive up insurance rates, but Americans who already have seen their health care-plan bills rise significantly know this is another false promise. Premiums have been rising ever since Obamacare’s enactment for family plans as well as supplemental plans for older Americans on Medicare.
Obamacare mandates that health insurance plans must offer a wide variety of benefits that were not required before. All of them add higher costs to insurance, and we’re seeing that right now.
“Some industry officials are predicting double-digit increases in premiums in some states, but information about the new rates won’t emerge until later in the spring, the summer or later,” the Post said.
Don’t be surprised if the administration, which has been playing political games with repeated delays of the law’s mandates, will postpone information about higher rates until after the critical midterm elections in November.
Monday was the deadline when uninsured people were required to get health care coverage or else face a fine of $95, which will gradually rise through 2016 to $695 or 2.5 percent of income.
Imposing the fines would be the political kiss of death for Democrats in this year’s midterm elections, and for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, right? Well, not exactly.
“The penalty won’t be assessed until you file your taxes next year, but the Obama administration isn’t expected to enforce the mandate all that strongly,” the Post reports.
Nevertheless, Obamacare poses a dense thicket of political hurdles in the fall for vulnerable Democrats who voted for it, especially in the Senate. And Republicans will be attacking them with a vengeance.
Here’s a taste of what Democrats can expect to hear from their GOP opponents in this year’s elections:
“Obamacare is a vehicle that drives home a bigger problem Democrats have with voters: Either they didn’t understand the law they championed, which makes them inept, or they blatantly lied about what this law would do, which makes them dishonest,” says Brad Dayspring, the chief spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Meanwhile, Obamacare’s weak financial structure is still a shaky house of cards that will need a huge number of young, healthier customers to pay for the vast majority of older, sicker people who will be signing up in the future.
So far those younger adults have not been signing up anywhere near the numbers that will be needed to bankroll Obamacare’s future costs.