It’s not the first time that the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler has dropped a bunch of Pinocchios on claims from Democrats on Medicaid expansion, and it looks like it won’t be the last, either. Kessler even gave himself three Pinocchios a month ago for initially buying the White House spin on the Medicaid numbers. Today, he gives Barack Obama the maximum four Pinocchios for claiming that ObamaCare has resulted in seven million enrollments in the federal program for low-income Americans:
“We’ve got close to 7 million Americans who have access to health care for the first time because of Medicaid expansion.”
– President Obama, remarks during dinner with the Democratic Governors Association, Feb. 20, 2014
The Fact Checker has written several times about the fuzziness of the Medicaid numbers issued by the Obama administration. But it is like playing whack-a-mole. Every time we rap someone for getting it wrong, the same problem pops up someplace else.
The problem is, as it has been, Democrats using the total number of Medicaid enrollments over the last few months, which comes to slightly over seven million. That includes, however, enrollments in states that refused to participate in the Medicaid expansion of ObamaCare, which account for 2.3 million of those enrollments. That takes the number to 4.8 million — but as Kessler has repeatedly explained since giving himself three Pinocchios on the point, that still includes people who would have been eligible without the Medicaid expansion.
How many does that leave? That depends on who you ask, because believe it or not, HHS never bothered to ask enrollees. Politico reports today that ObamaCare numbers on the previously uninsured moving to both Medicaid and private insurance are unreliable because HHS didn’t bother to provide questions that would have provided that data:
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?
The answer, apparently, is: Yes. It’s unreasonable.
The truth is, nobody has a good, real-time fix on how successful the Affordable Care Act has been in reducing the ranks of the uninsured. The Obama administration hasn’t been able to say how many of the 3.3 million people who have signed up for private health insurance coverage, or of the 6.3 million who have been determined eligible for Medicaid, were actually uninsured before — and health care experts aren’t sure yet, either.
There have been a couple of surveys, and at least one state — New York — has been keeping track of how many people were uninsured when they applied for coverage. But their answers are so wildly different that all we can say is, it’s either a tiny minority that were uninsured, or it’s most of them.
Two different groups have estimated the extent to which ObamaCare has expanded Medicaid to the uninsured. One is Acela, which estimates the figure at between 1.1 million and 1.8 million. Kessler also quotes Charles Gaba, who puts the number at 2.6 million. Both are far below Barack Obama’s claims, and also far below what the administration expected to see by this stage. The most motivated of all the uninsured should have been those eligible for Medicaid, and yet we haven’t seen a rush to enroll — and those who are motivated to do so probably already have. That means there won’t be a big spike coming in the next couple of months.
Kessler wonders how the President could be so ignorant of the weakness of this data:
In any case, no matter how you slice it, it does not add up to 7 million. It is dismaying that given all of the attention to this issue, the president apparently does not realize that the administration’s data are woefully inadequate for boastful assertions of this type.
I’d say it has less to do with ignorance than apathy. He doesn’t care whether the numbers are accurate or worthwhile — he just wants the talking point.