In My Orbit

Obamacare’s sleight of hand: The numbers just don’t add up

By , Communities Digital News

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LOS ANGELES, March 11, 2014—The McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform did a survey of consumers eligible to purchase individual coverage during the Obamacare open enrollment period on or off the exchange. The biggest revelation from their findings was the most common reason for not enrolling in Obamacare continues to be affordability.

“Perceived affordability remains the most oft cited reason for not enrolling, cited by 50 percent of all February respondents who reported that they had shopped but did not enroll.”

The survey also showed that though the Young Invincibles—that most desired 18-34 age group—have increased their enrollment from prior quarters, they still make up only 25 percent of sign ups; a far cry from the 40 percent needed to make the law sustainable.

The Obama administration is estimated to have spent 684 million to educate, advocate and inform the public about the the options available to them under the Obamacare law.

So why are the numbers so fuzzy?

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius crows about enrollment goals being met by the March 31 deadline. The mainstream and some left-leaning media tout a March 10 Gallup poll showing “U.S. Uninsured Rate Continues to Fall.” As of the date of the poll, rates are currently at 15.9 percent, an almost 2 point drop from 17.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.

The pundits at ThinkProgress optimistically penned, “The evidence shows that the Affordable Care Act is working and that uninsured Americans are signing up for health care. The uninsured rate is at the lowest it has been in years, and more and more of the uninsured have been getting covered. Outreach remains critical with just 22 days until open enrollment ends, but this is good news for those of us who think health care should be accessible for all Americans.”

As usual, the administration is playing fast and loose with the facts, rattling off numbers that give no indication about the true goals being met, or the sustainability of the new health care model.

According to a December AP story, 4.7 million Americans received cancellation notices because their insurance plans did not conform to the new Obamacare law. The Obama administration recently stated enrollments have exceeded 4 million. If those enrollments only include people who were previously insured, and were forced to ride the Obamacare train, then the supposed gain of ensuring all Americans is rendered ineffective.

According to Forbes, “on a recent HHS conference call, Obamacare implementation point man Gary Cohen was asked the key question: how many of the people who have signed up for Obamacare were previously insured? His response: ‘That’s not a data point that we are really collecting in any sort of systematic way.’”

Politico asked the question, “When you go to all this trouble to cover the uninsured, is it really that unreasonable to ask how many uninsured people Obamacare has covered so far?

Apparently, the sloppy handling of this entire rollout includes not crunching numbers that could prove, or disprove, your case.

Yet, Politico still makes excuses for the sorry state of affairs this law continually produces. “The search for real, trustworthy numbers shows just how hard it is to track how many uninsured people are gaining health coverage in anything close to real time, and even harder to link those changes directly to the ACA.”

So Amazon, eBay, and other online retailers can track site visits, purchases, and profits in a matter of hours, if not minutes, yet tracking the uninsured who have actually purchased health care is “hard.” Makes one wonder how they came up with that much quoted figure of 30-45 million uninsured if attaining concrete figures is that difficult.

The McKinsey report also shows that only 14 percent of actual uninsured—those who did not have a policy prior to the passage of the law—have bothered to enroll. So the very people the law was supposed to help are the very ones who are dragging their feet. The San Francisco Examiner reports that “70,000 people apparently don’t seek the coverage.

“There are as many as 166,000 people in San Francisco eligible for subsidized health care coverage via either Medi-Cal or insurance purchased from the Covered California marketplace, according to the Department of Public Health. As of Feb. 1, the most recent date for which data are available, 66,678 San Franciscans had signed up for either Covered California or Medi-Cal, according to the DPH.”

Covered California is also boasting about its 1 million signups ahead of the March 31 deadline. However, posts on the Covered California Facebook page and Twitter tweets with the hashtag #CoveredCA reveal the tarnish in these glowing numbers. Complaints of not being able to create accounts, paperwork submitted to determine eligibility for subsidies being ignored, and most egregious, the fact that many California doctors are not accepting Medi-Cal or other policies purchased through the exchange. Another stark reality: how many of these 1 million enrollees have actually paid? Even if they do pay, how many will actually have real coverage? April is sure to tell the tale.

Covered California and director Peter Lee have come under fire by California State Senator Ted Gaines, who is demanding an accounting of $1.37 million spent to promote a campaign featuring a bizarre dance-off with Richard Simmons. This was supposedly targeted toward Millenials, who probably have no concept of who the heavily plasticized Simmons is.

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Tori Richards of Watchdog.org also reports that Sen. Gaines filed a lawsuit on March 5 against Lee and Covered California, as a private citizen and as the owner of a family insurance agency. “There are nightmare scenarios as far as people trying to retain their same doctors and hospitals for services,” Sen. Gaines said. “We need to stop the cancellation process and figure out the right path for people who have health care.”

Could the more than 13 changes and modifications to the law since its passage in 2010 also be causing confusion and leeriness? Most definitely. Shifting standards and boundaries do not allow people space to plan; whether that planning involves getting a second job to pay for an inflated premium, or cutting certain luxuries in order to meet a higher deductible. It certainly does not build confidence that they are on any type of solid ground. Between calls and efforts for repeal, lawsuits being filed at the state and federal level, and the cavalier execution of the law by its own proponents, most people are choosing to stay away until the fallout has settled. Assuming that day will ever come.



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Jennifer Oliver OConnell

Jennifer Oliver OConnell offers witty, insightful, and direct opinion, analysis, and musings on local and national politics and popular culture, with occasional detours into reinvention, food, and Yoga. Jennifer also writes on Los Angeles Faith and Community for Examiner.com, teaches Yoga, and coaches on careers and reinvention. You can keep up with what's in Jennifer's orbit through her As the Girl Turns website: (http://asthegirlturns.com).

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