Thursday, June 10, 2021

No, Obamacare Didn’t Cover 30 Million More Americans

In the “lies, damned lies, and statistics” category comes a report the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released Saturday, in conjunction with a Zoom call from presidents Joe Biden and Barack Obama promoting Obamacare.

The report wants you to believe more than 30 million people obtained coverage because of Obamacare. But the Biden administration knows that number isn’t true. So instead of discussing people “newly insured” by the law, it talks about those who were merely “enrolled in coverage related to” Obamacare.

But just because people are enrolled in coverage “related to” Obamacare now doesn’t mean they were uninsured before. That explains why, although the report highlights a reduction in the uninsured rate, it doesn’t advertise the reduction in the number of uninsured individuals. That number is much lower than 30 million, but the Biden administration doesn’t want to let facts get in the way of a good narrative.

Counting Those Obamacare Kicked Off Prior Coverage

Remember the millions of people who received cancellation notices in fall 2013, just before Obamacare’s main provisions took effect? Those notices went to at least 4.7 million people, by one count, leading PolitiFact to call Obama’s repeated claims that “If you like your plan, you can keep it” its “Lie of the Year.”

But including each person enrolled in exchange coverage in its 30 million number allows the HHS report to take “credit” for the people Obamacare forced off their prior plans onto more expensive Obamacare ones. It also takes credit for people like me—someone who had employer-sponsored health insurance well before Obamacare, but is now stuck paying absurd prices for coverage I don’t necessarily need or want.

Counting Those Eligible for Medicaid Before Obamacare

The report includes nearly 3.9 million people who were eligible for Medicaid before Obamacare, but who now fall into the expansion group for able-bodied adults. Some states had expanded Medicaid to able-bodied adults prior to Obamacare, but those individuals are still included in the report.

Obamacare apologists might argue its promotion encouraged these individuals to enroll in coverage, a phenomenon often called the “welcome mat” or “woodwork” effect (because people “come out of the woodwork” to sign up). But these individuals already had access to coverage prior to Obamacare if they got hit by the proverbial bus or incurred significant medical expenses.

Since these individuals already had coverage access, it makes little sense for Obamacare to tax them into signing up (via the individual mandate). Likewise, it seems excessive to take credit for “covering” people who already had immediate access to coverage for health expenses if they ever needed it—but perhaps just didn’t want to sign up.

Counting Ineligible People Allowed to Stay on Medicaid During COVID

The report also notes a rise in individuals covered by Medicaid expansion, from 12.3 million in February 2020 to 14.8 million as of December 2020. The growth in Medicaid expansion came after three years of flat enrollment—numbers totaled 12.2 million in February 2017, 12.3 million in February 2018, and 12.2 million in 2019.

The sudden burst in enrollment didn’t come because many new states expanded Medicaid. It came because section 6008 of legislation enacted last March prohibited states from disenrolling individuals from Medicaid—except in cases where beneficiaries move out of state or ask to disenroll—for the remainder of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Last September, the Congressional Budget Office estimated this one provision would increase Medicaid enrollment for the current fiscal year by 4.5 million. Little wonder the number of individuals on the rolls has risen sharply.

A year before the coronavirus hit the United States, Louisiana removed at least 1,672 people from Medicaid who were earning six-figure incomes. By highlighting the growth in Medicaid enrollment while states like Louisiana cannot disenroll ineligible people, the Biden administration’s report takes “credit” for keeping these types of well-heeled beneficiaries on the rolls.

Biden Promoting a Law He Refused to Pay For

Even as he promotes—and inflates—his supposed “successes” from Obamacare, Biden went out of his way to dodge taxes that would fund the program. By classifying most of his book and speech income as corporate profits rather than wages, Biden and his wife Jill avoided more than $122,000 in payroll taxes imposed by Obamacare—the better to fund luxuries like the Virginia mansion he rented for an estimated $20,000 per month after leaving the vice presidency.

As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. For his real record on Obamacare, pictures of the mansion Biden prioritized over funding coverage for people with pre-existing conditions speak far louder than any inaccurate HHS report.

This post was originally published at The Federalist.