Senator Dick Durbin (D-Il) was a guest on CBS's Face The Nation Sunday and tried to put the best face on what has been a problematic Obamacare launch. At one point, he bragged about the number of people who gained healthcare for the first time because of the President's signature legislation.
Bob, let’s look at the bottom line. The bottom line is this: 10 million Americans have health insurance today who would not have had it without the Affordable Care Act. Ten million.”
According to Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's fact checker, that ten million number is false. He gave it Four Pinocchios, a rating he reserves for the biggest falsehoods.
Durbin appears to be combining two figures released by the administration: more 3 million signing up for insurance through the federal HealthCare.gov and state exchanges and 6.3 million deemed eligible for Medicaid. Both figures are generally October through December, and so obviously have increased since then.
But there are two big problems with both numbers:
a) The troubled federal exchange counts people as enrolled if an individual has selected a plan, but it does not know if a person enrolled and paid a premium because that part of the system has yet to be built.
b) The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid eligibility, but no one really knows how many of the 6.3 million are in this expansion pool — or whether they are simply renewing or would have qualified for Medicaid before the new law. Indeed, the number also includes people joining Medicaid in states that chose not accept the expansion.
According to Kessler, the Senator's errors don't end there. Durbin is making the assumption that everyone who signed up for Obamacare or the new Medicaid were getting health insurance for the first time. Kessler calls that ridiculous and points to three studies demonstrating that the overwhelming majority of people who have singed up were shifting from a previous plan.
He concludes by saying that, given the fuzzy nature of the numbers and the wide publicity devoted to the recent surveys, Durbin has little excuse for going on national television and claiming that every one of these people had been previously uninsured.