No serious analyst believes the ObamaCare “signup” totals pushed by the White House are accurate. The media makes a pretense of relaying these numbers as though they were valid data, when every single reporter knows they are not. In this way, talking-point energy is generated; there’s lots of chatter about 7 million “signups” on April 1, or 8 million today, or whatever figure the Administration is pushing out, but the caveats are muttered in a very low voice… usually as a single sentence about how the Administration refuses to release the total of paid and valid ObamaCare policies sold, or their demographic breakdown. Video news reports frequently forget to mention these qualifications at all. Print reporters usually claim the total of paid policies is “unknown,” even though everyone knows the Department of Health and Human Services has the number. If it was good news, they would of course release it immediately.
Thanks to work by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we have a better idea of why the Most Transparent Administration in History is guarding those figures as closely as Barack Obama’s activities on the night of September 11, 2012. Previous estimates from the insurance industry held that 20 to 25 percent of the reported ObamaCare signups were unpaid and invalid, but the actual numbers from the federal exchange system turn out to be considerably worse:
Data provided to the committee by every insurance provider in the health care law???s Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) shows that, as of April 15, 2014, only 67 percent of individuals and families that had selected a health plan in the federally facilitated marketplace had paid their first month???s premium and therefore completed the enrollment process. Nationwide, only 25 percent of paid enrollees are ages 18 to 34. The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations today invited the leaders of some of the nation???s largest insurance providers and their trade groups to testify at a hearing, ???PPACA Enrollment and the Insurance Industry,??? on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, at 10:15 a.m. in room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.
House Energy and Commerce Committee members sent letters requesting specific enrollment data, including the number of individuals who have paid their first month???s premium and demographic breakdowns. The committee has compiled the data that provides a snapshot of the true enrollment picture as of April 15, 2014, after the official end of the open enrollment period. Due to the administration???s repeated and unilateral extensions and changes, as well as the fact that many insurers have reported that individuals will still have time to pay their first month???s premium, the committee plans to ask the insurers in the federally facilitated marketplace to provide an enrollment update by May 20, 2014.
On April 17, 2014, President Obama declared the success of his law, claiming that 8 million Americans had signed up for health insurance, but data from the insurance providers reveals that the president???s figure is largely misleading. As of April 15, 2014, insurers informed the committee that only 2.45 million had paid their first month???s premium for coverage obtained through the federally facilitated marketplace. While the administration has relied on questionable nationwide figures to boast the law???s success, the state-by-state breakdown compiled by the committee underscores the serious problems facing some states.
The Committee makes the necessary footnotes about this figure: it doesn’t include the state exchanges – two of which, California and New York, cover very large populations – and the utter chaos caused by Obama’s unilateral tinkering with his “signature achievement” mean it will still be a while before the final numbers come in. The big questions would therefore be: Are payment rates on the state exchanges substantially higher than the federal 67 percent rate, and do the last-minute “surge” of applications received in the final days before the extended deadline expirted have a higher payment rate?
All indications are that the state exchanges have been a mixed bag. Some of them are working more smoothly than the federal system, while others – like the recently deceased Cover Oregon system, upon which $305 million of our money was wasted – are in much worse shape. Is the shockingly low federal payment rate a result of system errors, or is it because many of the enrollees simply didn’t send in their first premium payment? (Is there actually some number of them who don’t think they have to pay, because ObamaCare is supposed to be “free?”) It seems unlikely that the state payment rates will be good enough to drag the overall total anywhere near 80 percent overall.
As for the “surge” enrollments, I would think it likely they have a worse percentage of follow-through payments, both deliberately and as a result of glitches in the over-stressed system. The people sliding in under the wire, right before the illegally rewritten deadlines expired, by definition were not as serious about obtaining coverage as people who signed up early and paid as quickly as possible.
That demographic breakdown isn’t looking too good, either. As Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner recalls, the Administration was looking for 40 percent of enrollees to come from the “young sucker” demographic of 18 to 34, paying exorbitant premiums (with plump taxpayer subsidies) to cover the cost of insuring older, less healthy customers. The House Energy and Commerce study found only 25 percent of paid and valid policies were sold through the federal exchanges to that age group. The demographic death spiral is going to play out state-by-state anyway, no matter which exchange the policies were purchased through; some states may end up with a sustainable mixture of young and old customers, while others do not.
It’s a stunning national scandal that we have to speculate about these figures at all. The biggest government program in modern history operates under a shroud of secrecy for purely political reasons, because its defenders are terrified that the onslaught of bad news would build energy for repeal and tip the balance of tight 2014 congressional elections. It cannot be stressed enough that President Obama and his people are deliberately lying about the number of ObamaCare enrollments – they know what the true number of paid policies is.
I’ve always suspected they would sit on the real data until the actual number of paid and valid enrollments got somewhere near the 7.1 million number Obama announced during his “mission accomplished” speech on April 1, at which point their media pals will quietly concede the April 1 numbers were false, but it doesn’t really matter any more. As with every other Obama scandal, the deceptions needed to “win” a news cycle quickly become old stories no one is supposed to care about, once their usefulness has expired.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee notes that they compiled their figures by doing exactly what the Administration told them to do:
For months, the committee and members of the press have urged the administration to provide rudimentary details about enrollment under the law, including information regarding the makeup of the risk pool and who had actually paid for their health care plans. Administration officials repeatedly insisted they were incapable of collating that data and that the insurance providers are the only ones with those details. The committee followed the administration???s suggestion and went directly to the insurance providers.
???In a sad reversal away from its vows of transparency, the Obama administration, from inside the Oval Office on down, has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep basic details of the health law from the public. Tired of receiving incomplete pictures of enrollment in the health care law, we went right to the source and found that the administration???s recent declarations of success may be unfounded,??? commented full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). ???We need a complete picture of how this law is working. We will continue to strive for transparency and hold the administration accountable for this law???s shortcomings and broken promises.???
Chairman Upton is being far too polite by calling this a “sad reversal” from Obama’s vows of transparency – when has he actually delivered any? Opacity, deception, and stonewalling are standard operating procedure on everything from Operation Fast and Furious, to Benghazi, to this ObamaCare propaganda. Tomorrow’s headlines are the only battlefield this Administration cares about. They trust their media allies to clean up behind them, bayoneting wounded deceptions to ensure nothing of yesterday’s narrative survives as the front line moves relentlessly forward.
If the percentages computed by this survey of insurance providers holds true after state and “surge” data are added, the actual number of valid ObamaCare policies as of April 1 would be less than 5.5 million. We’re also still obliged to estimate how many of these folks were previously uninsured, but if the 67 percent rate holds up for them too – insurance industry experts have always maintained that the previously uninsured have a worse rate for following through with initial payments – we could end up with less than a million previously uninsured buying coverage. That’s the number President Obama would have been “celebrating” if he hadn’t been lying when he said “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, period.” That’s what these titanic sums of taxpayer money, coupled with severe damage to both American health care and the Constitutional relationship between citizens and the State, were expended to “achieve.” And the people who forced all this upon us still won’t be honest with the American people about what they have done.