At last week’s farewell ceremony for departing Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the latest victim of ObamaCare’s job genocide, President Obama spoke of the legacy she leaves behind through her oversight of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. “The final score speaks for itself,” the president said emphatically, referencing the recent announcement that over 7 million individuals have now signed up for insurance coverage on ObamaCare exchanges. The final score certainly does speak for itself, Mr. President, but I don’t think you are listening.
First off, where is this 7.5 million “score” even coming from? Best guess is that the Obama administration is relaying the number of “Marketplace Eligible Individuals Who Have Selected a Marketplace Plan” as they are referenced by monthly HHS reports that detail the usage of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges (We are not yet privy to any reports that include enrollment data for March).
However, is “selecting” a plan really the same as “enrolling” in one? Maybe, but then again, is taking something off the shelf in a grocery store the same as buying it?
For all the data that HHS now miraculously has, they have not revealed what qualifies as “selecting” a plan. For all we know, a significant portion of these 7 million-plus individuals may not have yet paid their first month’s premiums, meaning that they are still technically uninsured. In fact, Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the nation’s largest insurers and participants in the ObamaCare exchanges recently reported that as many as 20 percent of those that selected their plans on the exchanges have yet to pay their premiums. If this is a program-wide issue, then actual ObamaCare enrollment could be closer to 6 million, rather than 7 and a half.
But let’s give Secretary Sebelius the benefit of the doubt as a parting gift, and assume for a moment that 7.5 million have signed up and paid. Ezra Klein of Vox.com, seems to think that Sebelius’s resignation is a sign of a job well done: “Obamacare's first year, despite a truly horrific start, was a success. More than 7 million people look to have signed up for health insurance through the exchanges.”
Mission accomplished? Not quite. As Ezra Klein of the Washington Post reminded us last November, “The 7 million number isn't a goal so much as it's an estimate.” Washington Post 2013’s Ezra Klein continues on to refute Vox.com 2014’s Ezra Klein, explaining that even the White House knew that 7 million sign-ups for ObamaCare was entirely irrelevant. “[T]hey always defined [success] as a function of the mix of people in the exchanges -- the "ratio" -- rather than the number of people in the exchanges.”
This means that for ObamaCare’s insurance risk pools to work and remain solvent, the administration needs to sign up more young and healthy people that barely use insurance in order to balance out older and less healthy Americans now receiving subsidized coverage.
Fortunately, while HHS can’t seem to tell us how many people have actually paid for their insurance, they can tell us the ages of the people that have selected a plan, giving us a general idea of the stability of the risk pool. According to the latest numbers from HHS, only 25 percent of those that have selected a plan are between the ages of 18 and 34. By contrast, 30 percent of the sign-ups are individuals between the ages of 55 and 64. In fact, people older than 45 make up a staggering 53 percent of all sign-ups. It’s safe to say that with a 2-to-1 ratio of older to younger Americans enrolled in exchange-based plans, Secretary Sebelius has left ObamaCare about as stable as an inverted pyramid.
Let’s also not forget, that at least 5 million existing insurance plans were cancelled by ObamaCare. That number is likely closer to somewhere between 10 and 16 million, since that is the number of plans estimated to miss the essential requirements to be grandfathered into ObamaCare once the new law went into effect.
These mass cancellations have resulted in the vast majority of those signing up for ObamaCare coverage being people that previously had health insurance. Adding insult to injury, they are now signing up for coverage that is 41 percent more expensive on average than the plans they had cancelled.
Mission accomplished, indeed.
All things considered, the president is correct – we do have a final score for ObamaCare and Secretary Sebelius’s legacy. The problem is, we’re all still losing.