by Stephanie Vogel and Caroline Rayburn –
President Barack Obama addressed a small crowd in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday to discuss an April Fools’ Day joke four years in the making: a self-proclaimed “victory” for ObamaCare. According to the White House, 7.1 million Americans have successfully signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges at the end of the first open enrollment period. Unfortunately for the Obama Administration, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The White House has failed to provide any depth to the 7.1 million ACA enrollment figure it released this week, and if we put this number into context, it reveals startling new information about who’s really covered – or not covered –under ObamaCare.
Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, there were said to be about 50 million Americans without health insurance. President Obama relied heavily on this figure in 2009 when he worked to sell this legislation to the American people, touting its noble purpose: to insure the uninsured. For ObamaCare to be successful, though, it would have to expand access to health care to those who didn’t have it before by offering government-subsidized coverage – made possible by mandating all Americans to purchase insurance or pay a penalty. Of the White House’s 7.1 million individuals enrolled, then, it would be reasonable to assume that the vast majority were previously uninsured, right? Not so fast.
While the White House is not releasing any concrete data as of yet, a study by the RAND Corporation suggests that only 24% of those enrolled in ObamaCare were previously uninsured. This startling number means that the overwhelming majority (76%) of those signed up for ObamaCare already had insurance and either opted to switch due to more affordable ACA-subsidized premiums or because the health plans they liked and preferred were cancelled when the law took effect. (Remember, about 5 million individual health plans were cancelled by ObamaCare in the fall of 2013.)
In another recent survey conducted by McKinsey, a leading management consulting firm, the group found that coverage through ObamaCare remains too expensive for millions of uninsured Americans. Of the 2,096 individuals surveyed, McKinsey reported that 50% of respondents cited that they “could not afford to pay the [ACA] premium.” The sad reality is that despite the drastic changes to the health care system, mass confusion and outrage over cancelled health plans, and a trillion dollar price tag over the course of the next 10 years, the Affordable Care Act has only insured a tiny fraction of its target population.
Obama’s speech on Tuesday paid no attention to these crucial details, however, and instead criticized those who have spent enormous amounts of time and effort combating the law, saying that the “debate over repealing this law is over.” Additionally, the president mocked the idea that critics can try to repeal ObamaCare “without offering any plausible alternative,” despite the fact that a number of Republican representatives and senators have actually introduced market-based, alternative legislation like the “Empowering Patients First Act,” the “American Health Care Reform Act,” and the “Patient CARE Act.”
Instead, Obama praised the Affordable Care Act for giving Americans “the economic security of health insurance” that they deserve. The ACA may help a small sliver of the population in the short run, but what lies ahead will be anything but economic and personal security. Conservatives continue to embrace a free-market approach to health care – one that will enable competitive forces to drive down the cost of coverage and enable individuals to tailor plans to suit their health needs and concerns. For now, however, ObamaCare is here to stay, and the coming months will play a critical role in determining if the administration will be successful in attracting the uninsured to enroll in ACA plans.
Let’s hope the April Fools’ joke isn’t on the American people in the end.
 Roy, Avik. “RAND: Only One-Third of Obamacare Exchange Sign-Ups Were From The Previously Uninsured.” Mar. 31, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2014/03/31/rand-only-one-third-of-obamacare-exchange-sign-ups-were-from-the-previously-uninsured/.
 Roy, Avik. “McKinsey: Only 14% of Obamacare Exchange Sign-Ups Are Previously Uninsured Enrollees.” Mar. 8, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2014/03/08/mckinsey-only-14-of-obamacare-exchange-sign-ups-are-previously-uninsured-enrollees/.