California: Another state ObamaCare success story that wasn't

On the West Coast, we have more of those reluctantly released enrollment numbers for Obamacare. The Weekly Standard‘s John McCormack weighed the numbers and found them wanting despite WonkBlog’s assertion that this constitutes success. The short story is 900,000 lost insurance because of Obamacare’s new regulations and 500,000 have signed up via the exchange. About 300,000 of those who’ve signed up would have been those who were previously insured and now eligible for subsidies, which makes the best-case scenario number for newly insured in the giant state of California…about 200,000.

McCormack explains:

But even if all or most of the 500,000 people who signed up for Obamacare by December 31 end up paying their bills, is that really a success? Leaving aside important questions about the quality and cost of Obamacare plans, the enrollment numbers are not impressive. The California exchange is doing very little to achieve the goal of insuring the uninsured.

Recall that California did not allow insurers the opportunity to re-offer plans canceled by Obamacare. Anne Gonzales of Covered California confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD in a phone call that all 900,000 non-grandfathered plans in California “had to be discontinued by January 1.” So how many of the 500,000 people who signed up for Obamacare before January 1 previously had insurance? “I don’t think we have those [numbers],” Gonzales said.

But it’s easy to infer that the majority of people who signed up for Obamacare already had insurance. “Of those 900,000 [who lost plans], 310,000 of those would have been subsidy eligible if they came to the exchange,” Gonzales said. Another 20,000 subsidy-eligible Californians lost plans because their insurance carriers were dropping out of the market.

Health care industry expert Bob Laszewski points out that that means at least 330,000 of the 500,000 people who signed up for Obamacare already had health insurance. “If you want to know how many uninsured bought it, subtract by at least” 330,000, Laszewski told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “The only place they can get the subsidy is in the exchange. So if they’re going to replace their policy, unless they’re really stupid, they’re going to replace it in the exchange.”

To paraphrase a famous and honorable character, “You keep using that word, success. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

After spending $1 billion on developing and advertising the exchange in a blue state where views about the law are more favorable than the nation as a whole, is that really a success? Does that justify a multi-trillion dollar program and the cancellation of the insurance policies of millions of Americans across the country? The good folks at Covered California and WonkBlog seem to think so. A strong majority of American voters continue to disagree.

Update: Uh oh.