April 18 2014

POTUS’s Pre-Mature ObamaCare Victory Lap

Patrice J. Lee

The President heralded an 8 million ObamaCare enrollment number yesterday. He is so proud of that number that he called for an unscheduled press conference to blast conservatives and critics of ObamaCare and told Democrats to forcefully defend it.

Not so fast Mr. President. As with any of the enrollment numbers there is more reason to pause then to celebrate. And this supposed number ignores the ugly truth that ObamaCare is a bad deal for Americans – especially young people.

According to the President, following the two-week extension, 8 million Americans have signed up for healthcare. Signups hit 7 million on April first, so over the next two weeks about 900,000 people picked a plan, according to the President – which the Administration qualifies as enrollments although they actually haven’t paid.  That beats the CBO and White House’s original estimate of seven million by the original end of open enrollment. This claimed additional nearly million people is just extra padding that the Administration can claim of proof that Americans want ObamaCare.

But there are big caveats.

The biggest is the President’s claim yesterday that 35 percent of people who signed up for exchange plans were under 35. His nose should grow a bit for that. He’s including in his accounting all of the little kids, pre-teens and teens whose parents signed them up. The number that matters to the success of the new insurance markets is how many enrollees are between 18 and 34 years old. In the end, young adults within that age range accounted for only 28 percent of signups – still far below the 40 percent projected –and potentially needed to keep the premiums from skyrocketing. Young people chose to opt-out despite the ridiculous gimmicks and millions in taxpayer dollars the Administration burned through to lure them in.

The Washington Post explains:

Obamacare supporters predicted all along an enrollment bump in the crucial young adult demographic, and it sort of happened. In January and February, young adults accounted for 25 percent of total signups.

Last summer, the administration had hoped that 40 percent of exchange enrollees would be between 18 and 34, based on the Congressional Budget Office's estimates that 7 million people in all would enroll in 2014. Instead, the administration got 28 percent, which the White House and supporters very eagerly pointed out Thursday was nearly identical to youth enrollment in the first year of the Massachusetts health-care law that Obamacare was based on.

Is that rate good enough for the federal law? Probably. Previous analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that enough young people have signed up to avoid a major spike in premiums next year. And the CBO earlier this week said it expects a small increase in premiums in 2015.

And let’s not forget that we don’t know yet how many of these people have actually paid their first month’s premiums versus just adding a plan to their shopping cart. We also don’t know what kind of insurance they purchased and how many joined through Medicaid expansion.

If there’s one thing we know in Washington, it’s that you can manipulate numbers to tell you just about anything you want them to say. The President may deserve a couple of Washington Post Fact Checker Pinocchio’s for his disingenuous depiction of youth enrollment. Further, extending the enrollment period by two weeks was a strategy to count more people in thereby padding the numbers and offsetting those who have yet to pay for their coverage.

Are we deterred from our criticism of ObamaCare? Absolutely not.

The botched rollout, broken website, and ridiculous PR strategy aren’t the problems with this healthcare law. The un-Affordable Care Act costs more than predicted, raises the costs of healthcare, has created millions of uninsured Americans, and will cover less previously uninsured Americans than predicted. We recently, reported on the spike in premiums of plans in the individual and small group market thanks to ObamaCare. And let’s not forget about the impact on businesses which are getting hit with new taxes and higher costs, opting not to hire workers, and avoiding investing in their growth of their businesses.

The President and his allies wave off all of this.  Americans, workers, and business owners who are feeling the full impacts aren’t so quick to dismiss the havoc ObamaCare is wreaking on their lives. The President should be careful to tread more lightly.

 

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