January 3 2014

The Pinocchio Administration

Patrice J. Lee

Seven million? Three million? One million?

Just what was the ObamaCare enrollment target for the Administration? It seems that this number has been shape shifting since last fall’s botched rollout of the healthcare.gov website and low enrollment numbers.

To cap it off on New Year’s Eve a White House aide added to the pile on denying that seven million was ever what the Administration had said they expected. Going into the new year with roughly two million Americans “enrolled” in ObamaCare’s federal or state-run exchanges, the White House was understandably trying to remove some of the egg on its face for falling so far below the seven-digit numbers they predicted earlier in the year.

Here is a transcript from the MCNBC interview with White House health care adviser Phil Schiliro who back-tracked:

WELKER: Are you confident that you’re going to be able to meet your target of getting 7 million people by the end of March? And is that still your target number?

SCHILIRO: Well, that was never our target number. That was a target that was put out by the Congressional Budget Office and has become the accepted number. But there’s no –

WELKER: Well Kathleen Sebelius has said 7 million people, that that’s the goal.

SCHILIRO: But that was because it came from the Congressional Budget Office and it had become an accepted number. There’s no magic to the 7 million. What there is magic to is that in the month of December, a million Americans signed up for insurance. Not because they had to. They didn’t face a penalty if they didn’t. They signed up because they wanted insurance on Jan. 1.

So did the press dream up that seven-million target? Is it true that the Administration never considered it their target? The Washington Post Fact Checker investigated the claim and found someone was fibbing:

The 7 million figure did originate as an estimate (not a target) by the CBO. Before healthcare.gov launched, senior administration officials certainly embraced the number.

Here’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaking to reporters last June: “We’re hopeful that 7 million is a realistic target.”

And here she is on Sept. 30, in an interview with NBC News: “I think success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.”

The Pinocchio Test

Whether or not the administration originally came up with the 7 million figure, officials certainly embraced it as a target in the months leading up to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. We agree that the mix of young and old enrollees is perhaps the more relevant number, but it’s a bit odd at this point for the administration to minimize the 7 million figure. Everyone knows enrollment got off to a slow start–and one can safely assume the administration would be bragging if in December it had exceeded the targets in Tavenner’s memo.

The Administration racked up two Pinocchios for distancing itself from the seven-million enrollee figure which suggests they made “significant omissions and/or exaggerations.” I would ramp that up a nose or two.

Lost in the shuffle is the loose definition of enrollment which for the Administration is anyone who has merely selected a plan. How many have actually paid their first premium and received an insurance card? No one makes mention of that, but we’ll hold out for the stories that will no doubt start popping up.

We’ve seen the uncovering of untruth after untruth with the Obama Administration. This new one is indicative of an Administration that is more concerned with saving face than having a commitment to integrity. Americans forgive mistakes once there is contrition but this kind of disregard for the truth contributes to an unrecoverable erosion of confidence and trust.

 

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