What Do the Obamacare Sign-up Numbers Really Mean?

April 2, 2014

The final (sort of) numbers are out and the Obamacare supporters are doing the Happy Dance. The "official" enrollment number for the health insurance exchanges is 7.1 million people, which has been the goal since enrollment began on 10/1/13. The "sort of" comes from the fact that the Obama Administration has allowed an extention for people experiencing "hardships" in signing up. These hardships are self-reported, so essentially the Administration has extended the open enrollment period indefinitely.

In Washington state, a total of 960,000 people completed enrollment in our exchange. Out of that number, 146,000 enrolled in private insurance. The remainder signed up for Medicaid which is totally paid for by taxpayers. In other words, only 15% of those enrolled are actually paying for health insurance. And tragically, 290,000 Washingtonians were forced off their existing health insurance plans. We don't know how many of these people purchased health insurance inside or outside the exchange or are simply going without insurance. 

What we don't know about the 7.1 million people nationally:

1. How many were uninsured before?

2. How many had health insurance that didn't qualify under the Obamacare regulations and were forced to find a new plan?

3. How many have actually paid their first insurance premium and completed their enrollment?

4. How many of these people signed up for the expanded Medicaid, which is a taxpayer-funded entitlement?

5. How many were already in the existing Medicaid and re-signed up in the exchanges - or qualified for the existing Medicaid, but hadn't signed up for it?

Lost in the celebration are a few facts:

1.  Fifty million people were uninsured when Obamacare became law. Even if all the 7.1 million enrollees were previously uninsured (and this is very doubtful), this represents only 14% of the uninsured.

2. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the cost of Obamacare to the American public is now up to $2 trillion over the next ten years and will not bend the health care cost curve down.

3. The Manhattan Institute reported that on average, premiums in the individual health insurance market will rise 40%.

4. In many cases, people purchasing health insurance in the exchanges will have narrower provider networks and access to health care may become a serious problem.

The Administration and supporters of Obamacare might be declaring victory, but the facts say something else.