White House Guides Down Obamacare Enrollment Target, Says To Focus On Demographics; Refuses To Give Demographic Data

Tyler Durden's picture

As we reported previously, currently the biggest problem facing Obamacare is the sudden "realization" by as many as half of any given state's enrollees, that in addition to signing up for Obamacare, one also has to make a payment which is rapidly becoming a dealbreaker for many, and leading to total confusion at the doctor's office. However, even if one were to assume that payment is not a major hurdle (after all funding for a subsidized ponzi scheme can always be... further subsidized), there are various other key issues that still remain. Such as the administration's repeatedly stated target of 7 million enrollees by the end of March. Actually wait, it may have been 7 million once upon a time, as in the days before the Healthcare.gov rollout became an unmitigated disaster, but suddenly that bogey no longer exists.

Enter revisionist history:

“That was never our target number. That was a target that came from the Congressional Budget Office, and it has become an accepted number. There’s no magic to the 7 million. What there is magic to is that in the month of December a million Americans signed up for insurance.”

     – White House aide Phil Schiliro, interview on MSNBC, Dec. 31, 2013

Guiding lower? Happens all the time on Wall Street so it was only a matter of time before D.C. started as well. Watch:

The key points from the Jay Carney:

"We're not backing away from a number that we didn't put out originally.... "I think that others noted that 7 million is a fine target, but that that will not determine whether the marketplaces function effectively.... It's important to understand that it is not — that there's not some magic number: 6,999,999 and the system collapses; one more than that and it functions perfectly."

At this point it is worth remembering just how fudged the very definition of "enrolled" is: The White House counts “an enrollee” as anyone who has selected a qualified health plan. “Once someone clicks "enroll" and selects a plan, we consider them enrolled,” a senior White House official said. "We don’t know if they have paid or when they pay the company because it’s a private transaction between the company and the consumer." And as we explained before, up to 50% of "enrollees" haven't actually enrolled by making any payments.

So to summarize: the White House crowed about the 2.1 million Americans who have signed up for insurance either through the federal health-care exchange or state-run exchanges (even if the payment status is unclear). At the same time, Obama's henchmen backed away from the idea that they had suggested a "target" of 7 million enrollees when the enrollment period for 2014 ends in March. As Schiliro put it, "that was never our target number"... even though it was consistently framed, implied and suggested as precisely that.

The question then is: did someone lie? For the answer, we go to the authoritarian source on massaging spin when it comes to the administration: The Bezos Washington Post. Here is what D.C. favorite newspaper had to say:

The 7 million figure did originate as an estimate (not a target) by the CBO. Before HealthCare.gov launched, senior administration officials certainly embraced the number.

 

Here’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaking to reporters last June: “We’re hopeful that 7 million is a realistic target.”

 

And here she is on Sept. 30, in an interview with NBC News: “I think success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.”

 

Moreover, on Sept. 5, 2013, Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, sent Sebelius a memo titled, “Projected Monthly Enrollment Targets for Health Insurance Marketplaces in 2014.”

 

The memo offered an estimate of 7,066,000, drawing both on CBO’s estimate and the experience of the universal health plan in Massachusetts, Medicare Part D “and conversations with employers, issuers and states.” It projected that enrollment would be 3.3 million by the end of December.

 

The 7 million figure, apparently, became less relevant as “a target” or a measure of success when it became clear that the Web site’s problems were making it difficult for people to sign up.

 

Instead, officials have argued that a more relevant figure is the mix of young and old people. That’s because younger people tend to be healthier and thus have lower medical expenses; if only older people sign up, premiums would soar.

WaPo's conclusion:

Whether or not the administration originally came up with the 7 million figure, officials certainly embraced it as a target in the months leading up to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. We agree that the mix of young and old enrollees is perhaps the more relevant number, but it’s a bit odd at this point for the administration to minimize the 7 million figure.

Ok, so they lied. But if the mix of enrollees, however one defines them, is skewed toward the younger population, all should be forgiven right? Sure. However, there is a tiny problem: the administration refuses to give away the demographic split data! From The Hill:

The White House said Monday that it was still unable to provide the demographic data is describes as a "key element" to evaluating the overall success of ObamaCare.

 

White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted on Monday that "at this point" the administration did not have information about the makeup of early enrollees in the president's signature legislative program.

 

But the White House spokesman also pledged to make the data "available as soon as possible."

 

"If you look at how we've dealt with data as it's become available over the past several months, both good data and bad data, we've done our best to provide it to you when we are confident about the accuracy of it," Carney said.

 

Healthcare experts have warned of a "death spiral" if not enough young, healthy adults buy into the ObamaCare marketplace to offset the cost of insuring older and sick Americans. A study report by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 4 of 10 enrollees would need to be between 18 and 34 years old to prevent a rise in premiums in subsequent years.

So: first the lies about the definition of enrollment, then the lies about how many actually have insurance, i.e., have paid and are officially enrolled, then the realization that the schedule is hopeless off track and and the need to guide down, but only after misdirection pointing at "good data"...  which just so happens does not exist.

Oh, and something about a "death spiral" if not enough young, healthy... oh wait, look over there: the market is at all time highs (or just below them).

We truly wonder: how much longer will this patented and indefinitely repeated distraction scheme, aimed at the absolutely lowest common denominator, continue to work without a glitch?