Assessing ObamaCare by Its Own Standards

Akash Chougule

4/15/2014 12:01:00 AM - Akash Chougule

At first blush, many viewed the White House announcement that 7 million people had signed up for ObamaCare as a defeat for advocates of limited government. President Obama’s speech two weeks ago in the Rose Garden was presented as a vindication of his signature law and more broadly, his administration. Replete with sunshine, smiles, and cheering, Obama delivered a touchdown dance – essentially declaring victory for ObamaCare as he announced the arbitrary milestone. But before the President and his allies proclaim “mission accomplished,” they should take heed of the standards by which the American people will ultimately judge ObamaCare – the same standards the Administration set for itself.

The primary goal of the President’s $2 trillion health care law (that took over one-sixth of the economy) was to insure the uninsured. By every reasonable assessment, it has failed to do so. Research from the RAND Corporation estimates that of the 7.1 million enrollees on March 31st, only about 858,000 people who were previously uninsured have completed enrollment and paid a premium signifying they are covered.

Furthermore, “7 million” merely represents people who have gotten as far as putting a plan in their “online shopping cart.” It says nothing about whether they have actually paid a premium – which determines whether they are actually covered. After months of being unable to answer questions about enrollment numbers and breakdowns, the administration was miraculously able to tell the precise moment at which ObamaCare hit 7 million – but still refuses or is unable to say exactly how many have paid a premium.

As of 2012, over 47 million nonelderly adults in the United States were uninsured. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that in 2023, there will still be 30 million people uninsured in the United States. In other words, even when measured by the administration’s own key metric, ObamaCare has been – and will continue to be – a colossal failure.

Even if 7.5 million people did enroll in ObamaCare, it would be dubious to claim victory given the wave policy cancellations that preceded it. As the President’s health care law rolled out, some six million people around the country received cancellation notices from their insurance providers. Those cancellations confirmed that the President’s oft-repeated claim that if people liked their plan, they could keep it, was a lie. Indeed, it was the “Lie of the Year.” When viewed against this backdrop, the White House’s net-gain goal of 7 million signups by the end of March casts the announcement in a far less favorable light.

Given that some 6 million people had their policies cancelled, and the White House goal was a net gain of 7 million newly insured Americans, roughly thirteen million previously uninsured people would have to complete enrollment and be newly covered to achieve the milestone.

Needless to say, people who enrolled in ObamaCare because the plan they liked (which the President said they could keep) was cancelled by ObamaCare, cannot reasonably be pointed to as success stories.

Just the same, “adult children” who are newly covered under their parent’s plan or able-bodied adults now covered under Medicaid expansion are more a symbol of America’s rapidly expanding dependency state than a measure of success for the President’s health care law.

Furthermore, the Administration cannot accurately predict what premiums will be, but all signs point to price increases given the demographic breakdown of enrollees. The Administration had originally set a goal of nearly 40% of enrollees being young and healthy (and thus paying into a system they would seldom use.) However, estimates – since the White House is unwilling or unable to provide exact breakdowns – show the ratio is likely fewer than 30 percent. Despite President Obama’s promise that he would lower premiums by $2,500 per family per year, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius admitted that premiums could as much double for certain people.

For these and other reasons, many of the President’s own allies remain unwilling to embrace ObamaCare. If ObamaCare were truly the rousing success he claimed it is, then Kathleen Sebelius and vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election would be by Obama’s side basking in its glory. But Kathleen Sebelius has unceremoniously stepped down from HHS, and vulnerable Democrats remain afraid to associate themselves with the President and his health care law, because the fact of the matter remains – people don’t like Obamacare.

By its own standards, ObamaCare has failed as a matter of policy. By the standards of its supposed supporters, it has failed as a matter of politics, as well.