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As Long as We Remember...

April 4, 2014

Another Aberration

Joe Charlebois

The numbers don’t lie – or so the saying goes. Well, it depends on which numbers, doesn’t it? On April 1, 2013, President Barack Obama addressed a group at the White House touting the success of the Affordable Care Act's "enrollment" of over 7 million Americans. The president – to put it polite – is misleading the country once again.


Those who have studied the numbers on the left, the right, as well as the well-respected Rand Corporation, don't buy into the president's political poppycock.


The only ones who believe this number are the president's sycophants. In fact, if you listened to the president, his numbers would be well over 11 million Americans who are enrolled in plans due to enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The president includes over three million young adults who have gained insurance form their parent’s plans up to the age of 26. He also includes millions through Medicaid expansion and the Children's Health Initiative Program (CHIP).


On the right, Charles Krauthammer, who is a Harvard-trained physician and Board-Certified psychiatrist, has derided the politics of the numbers and described them as "phony." His doubt is founded in the fact that the administration – up until April 1st – had been unable to provide any definitive numbers on enrollment or registration for six months.


On the left, The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler – "The Fact Checker" – pointed out that the 7.1 million number that Mr. Obama specifically pointed to and repeated four times in his address is carefully scripted. Mr. Obama made a point in his first use of the 7.1 million number that this was the number who "signed up," which means that the magic number of 7 million has not been attained. Mr. Kessler approximates that 85% of those signed up will purchase coverage. How or why he uses this percentage isn't revealed, but even accounting for what may be a high percentage of enrollees, that alone would drop to roughly 6 million premium paying consumers.


Mr. Kessler, who pointed out that Mr. Obama stated that the 7.1 million number is just those who signed up, didn't read the end of the address where Mr. Obama stated that those "…folks have health-insurance…" Later that day the White House doubled down when they tweeted "That's why 7.1 million people got health insurance. Because people got the word out." – President Obama #7MillionAndCounting."


The White House, when questioned by the press corps about the numbers, did not respond to questions regarding how many of these millions were actually uninsured prior to the implementation of the ACA.


The well-respected Rand Corporation's most recent study of the ACA has yet to be released. At this point it has only been reviewed by members of The Los Angeles Times staff. The numbers suggest there are only 858,000 previously uninsured Americans who have paid for their policies and are currently insured.


You ask: "What difference at this point does it make?" It makes a real difference. The fact that our entire healthcare system has been turned on its ear to insure a tiny percentage of the actual uninsured is tragic. For those of the five million Americans who had their healthcare plans cancelled – millions more to come after the mid-term elections – only to be re-enrolled, have seen a limit on physician choices, a limit on hospital choices, increased premiums, increased deductibles and increased out-of-pocket costs.


The president's less than honest charade at the White House on Tuesday is not about celebration for the uninsured; it is only a bully-pulpit attempt to provide cover for vulnerable Democrats who are up for election in November.


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