by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Ed Haislmaier of the Heritage Foundation explains for National Review Online readers why he’s not that impressed by enrollment numbers associated with the Affordable Care Act.
On May 1, outgoing health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius triumphantly reported that 8 million people had picked a plan through the exchanges during open enrollment. Yet, since then, HHS has assiduously refused to provide figures for how many of those 8 million actually completed the transaction. Nor has HHS provided any breakout of exchange sign-ups by those who were previously uninsured versus those who were already insured but obtained replacement coverage through the exchanges. …
… [H]ere are three key takeaways from the data for the six-month period of October 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014:
Net enrollment in the individual-coverage market grew by 2,236,942 individuals, while net enrollment in employer group coverage declined by 1,716,540 individuals.
The decline in employer-sponsored coverage offset 77 percent of the gain in individual-market coverage, for a net increase in private-market coverage of only 520,000 individuals during the period.
Medicaid and CHIP enrollment reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show that enrollment in those programs increased by about 5 million individuals during the same six-month period, with 87 percent of those gains occurring in the 26 states (plus the District of Columbia) that elected to adopt Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to able-bodied adults.
The biggest piece of the puzzle still missing is the coverage status of the 3,777,438 individuals whom HHS reported as picking an exchange plan between March 1 and the close of open enrollment in April. Few, if any, of them would have had their coverage activated before the end of March, so those who actually gained coverage will show up in the second-quarter data, along with anyone who selected an exchange plan earlier but had his enrollment delayed beyond March due to the exchanges’ software problems. …
… [I]t’s pretty safe to project that when the final figures for Obamacare’s first year are in, the Medicaid expansion will be responsible for over half of any net increase in health-insurance coverage. In that regard, it should be noted that the Medicaid expansion population consists of able-bodied working-age adults, 82 percent of whom don’t have dependent children and 52 percent of whom are ages 19 to 34.
So far, this is not a particularly impressive performance — unless, of course, you believe that giving several million able-bodied, working-age adults substandard government health coverage as a consolation prize for remaining unemployed or underemployed — and doing so at considerable disruption and expense for everyone else — constitutes a significant achievement or an acceptable substitute for pro-growth economic policies.
Be sure to follow Katherine Restrepo’s continuing coverage of Obamacare developments.