Politico‘s headline was unambiguous ― “The verdict is in: Obamacare lowers uninsured.”
Well, my goodness, I would certainly hope so after spending several hundred billions of dollars to do just that. We can’t be sure how much has been spent so far, but the legislation called for over $1,000 billion over ten years. Let’s see ― it has been in effect for four years now, so is that $400 billion so far?
The Politico article reports that the Commonwealth Fund estimates 9.5 million fewer uninsured, and the Urban Institute finds 8 million newly insured adults. Let’s round it up to ten million. That would make $40,000 for each newly insured person. Wow!
Of course, there are some problems with even these optimistic numbers. Chris Conover delves deeply into the methodology in Forbes. But I want to add a few other observations –
- It is curious that Commonwealth takes as its baseline July-September, 2013 and compares that date to April-June, 2014, when Gallup reports a remarkable spike in the numbers of uninsured at just that time. Now Conover questions the reliability of the Gallup poll, but there isn’t much doubt that many people were dropped from coverage throughout 2013 in anticipation of the Obamacare open enrollment starting in October of that year. So mid-2013 is an outlier in the rate of the uninsured. It would be more accurate and certainly more informative to compare the numbers of uninsured today to the numbers when Obamacare was enacted (March, 2010) or even better to before the start of the recession.
- Some large numbers of the people who think they are covered are not. The Washington Post reported on this a couple of months ago. Many of the people who are enrolled have not verified their eligibility, but the government currently has no ability to confirm their status, one way or the other.
- The Administration has delayed many of the provisions that will reduce the numbers of covered people. These include the scheduled cancellation of individual policies in about half the states and the imposition of the employer mandate and the “minimum benefits” requirement on employers. These delays have been so arbitrary and capricious that no one knows what is expected of them and when these expectations will be enforced, so they just keep doing what they have always done until they are told they no longer can.
- Some of the newly insured would have gotten covered even without Obamacare as the economy continues its painfully slow recovery and more people get jobs.
So it is hard to take much comfort from the conclusion that some people have gained coverage after all this time and money. Wake me up when the numbers of uninsured get down to 5% of the population.