Numbers Aren’t Adding Up for ObamaCare

Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist currently contributing to JewishWorldReview.com, HumanEvents.com and CanadaFreePress.com. He may be reached at atahlert@comcast.net.


5388179-White-House-Obamacare-Enrollment-Numbers-dog-BitesThe Obama administration did its best to inflate the number of ObamaCare enrollees yesterday, but it’s clear even the administration’s most vigorous efforts have fallen painfully short.

The initial announcement made at 3:30 p.m. EST revealed that 106,185 people nationwide had “selected” an ObamaCare health insurance plan. The word “selected” is critical here, because the administration was forced to admit the figure includes people who have signed up for the plan, but have yet to pay for their premiums. At the House Oversight Committee hearing on ObamaCare yesterday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) forced White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park to reveal the folly of the administration’s position. “Have you ever shopped on Amazon.com? Chaffetz asked. “Yes sir,” he replied. “When you put something in your shopping cart, is that considered a sale?” Chaffetz continued. “No,” replied Park.

Thus, the “most transparent administration in history” continues to obfuscate, more than likely because there are a lot more Americans who have put a policy from ObamaCare in their “shopping cart,” than those who have actually paid for a premium. As for shopping cart sales per se, the average shopping cart abandonment rate is 65.23 percent. A government-mandated product will undoubtedly see a lower abandonment rate, but the notion that the administration is counting shoppers as enrollees reeks of duplicity and desperation.

Indeed, the situation remains desperate with Healthcare.gov website. Of the more than 100,000 enrollees who have selected a health plan, only 26,794 of them were able to do so on the federal website, despite the reality it is used by 34 states. By comparison, the 16 state-run exchanges (plus the District of Columbia) garnered 79,391 enrollees. Thus, the signup rate at the federal website averaged a meager 744 enrollees per state. That’s a remarkably modest number for a website that has cost the taxpayers more than $600 million and counting.

Modesty aside, the total number of enrollees must be measured against the reality that as of mid-November, 4.8 million Americans have had their health insurance plans cancelled. That number is expected to rise exponentially. Depending on the source, the number of policies that will be cancelled ranges from 52 million, to as high as 93 million.

Administration officials tried to put a happy face on this ongoing debacle, noting that 975,407 applications out 1,081,582 eligible people made it through the enrollment process, but have yet to select a plan. They further noted that the state and federal exchanges had received 26,876,527 unique visitors. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius contends this shows how interested people are. “Even with the issues we’ve had, the marketplace is working, and people are enrolling,” she said. “As more people shop and talk things over with their families, we expect these numbers to rise.” Someone less optimistic might find the minuscule level of actual signups compared to the browsers troubling, especially given the horrifying numbers of Americans losing their health insurance every day.

Equally troubling is the reality that 396,261 people have been determined as being eligible for Medicaid. They will be enrolled in that plan as of January 1, 2014.  Thus, the number of Americans who have selected a private health insurance policy that they will pay for mostly or completely by themselves, (depending on their eligibility for a subsidy) has been dwarfed by the number who are guaranteed to participate in “free” government-run insurance.

One’s eligibility for subsidies became a hot topic this week, courtesy of James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas. ObamaCare navigators at the National Urban League’s offices in Dallas were secretly videotaped advising enrollees how to game the system. One person was fired and three were suspended after the video was made public. The Urban League disavowed their behavior, but insisted that undercover applicants were speaking to were navigators-in-training and “the full context of these comments is not reflected in the video.”

Regardless, the video underscored the perilous reality revealed during last week’s Senate hearing. Under questioning by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sebelius was forced to admit there is no federal requirement mandating that navigators undergo a criminal background check, and that it was entirely possible a convicted felon could be hired to obtain sensitive personal information required to sign up for a plan.

Unsurprisingly, the political recriminations are ramping up in earnest. Former President Bill Clinton piled on Obama regarding his bald-faced lie that Americans who like their insurance plan could keep it. Clinton said Obama should keep his promise. “So I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got,” Clinton said. According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Obama was on board with the idea.

That’s a remarkable turnaround for a White House that has waged a steady campaign against “bad apple” insurance companies responsible for saddling Americans with “substandard” insurance plans.

It is also a pipe dream. As Jonathan Gruber, one of the authors of the Massachusetts health plan and an MIT economics professor, explains in an email, Obama is “just reacting to one broken promise by imposing a much larger and harmful one: our promise to insurers that if they priced fairly, we would deliver a broad pool of insured. If you allow the healthy enrollees to stay out in their old policy, the insurers lose money and the program falls apart.” Robert Laszewski, a health insurance industry consultant at Health Policy and Strategy Associates, echoes the futility of such an idea. “You just can’t send tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of ‘never mind’ letters out to policyholders on, maybe, a month’s notice,” he explains. “So an executive order to change the regs would be like putting Humpty Dumpty back together.”

Unfortunately for Obama, Bill Clinton isn’t the only Democrat looking for a way out. Yesterday House Democrats handed the president a Friday deadline with regard to a fix-it-or-else ultimatum. That’s because Friday is when Republicans will be calling a vote on a proposal offered by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) to extend Americans’ existing insurance policies for a year. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney ripped Upton’s bill, even as he acknowledged that Obama has yet to come up with an alternative plan. Carney’s pronouncement was preceded by the ominous revelation that House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) was “not closed to the option” of voting in favor of Upton’s proposal. Other House Democrats are apparently less wishy-washy. “There will be defections,” a House Democratic leadership aide contended.

In other words, for the first time since ObamaCare was passed, some level of bipartisanship, no matter how ironic the context, may be achieved.

If it is, the president has no one to blame but himself. As bad as the rollout of the website has been, it was Obama himself who betrayed the trust of the American public. The devastating results contained in a new Quinnipiac poll  taken Tuesday underscore that reality. Only 39 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing over all, and 52 percent no longer believe he is honest or trustworthy. Moreover, a whopping 73 percent of those polled want ObamaCare postponed–while a paltry 19 percent believe it will improve the U.S. healthcare system.

At yesterday’s House hearing, Todd Park did his best to parse the language with regard to the website. When asked if the site would be working by the administration’s promised deadline of November 30, Park said the team tasked with repairing it “is working incredibly hard to meet that goal.” Jay Carney was equally imprecise, telling reporters that healthcare.gov is “on track” and will be working smoothly for the “vast majority” of consumers by the deadline. For the vast number of Americans whose lives have been thrown into turmoil by this entire fiasco, such transparent hedging is insulting. When it comes to peoples’ healthcare, “almost” isn’t remotely good enough.

*

To watch this week’s episode of The Glazov Gang, which focuses on When Obama Said He’s “Sorry” and unravels the president’s peculiar apology about his ObamaCare lie, Click Here.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.

  • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

    With 4.8 million plans cancelled (and more expected), a few hundred thousand in Obamacare will mean far fewer insured now than before. Obamacare was supposed to insure universal healthcare but it is clearly leading the other way.

    Obama’s next step? He’ll argue that voluntary sign-ups haven’t worked so the government will forcefully enroll people in “plans” while deducting the “premium” from their pay checks. Of course these premiums won’t cover the cost so taxes (and more borrowing) will pay for the rest.

  • T-Rex

    “As more people shop and talk things over with their families, we expect these numbers to rise.”

    TRANSLATION: When the public realizes we absolutely screwed them by both outlawing most policies and MANDATING they purchase one we approve of, they will go on the website, bend over, grab their ankles and do the right thing for the good of the collective.

  • tagalog

    So 106,000 have signed up for Obamacare?

    And 5,000,000 have received cancellation notices on their private health insurance plans?

    What’s that, about 1 person signed up for health care vs. about 45 or 50 people cancelled out of health insurance? Let’s see: 5 million divided by 106 thousand equals 47.17; yep, about 47 people cancelled out for every 1 Obamacare recipient.

    Am I the only person who thinks that the notion of some, that it’s a good thing Obamacare exists because it provides health care insurance for people, is pretty twisted, obviously unjust, and only exists because so many others are losing their health care insurance?

    I suppose this is part of some nefarious plan to substitute single-payer national health care for the private health insurance industry. I hope that the voters who actually vote won’t fall for it.

    • WW4

      In order that voters not fall for single-payer, something better needs to be proposed.

      What will that look like? If we take the last 30 years of Republican proposals (that weren’t essentially “let’s keep doing what we were doing”), they tend to resemble aspects of the ACA. Politically, then, would it be a new ball game altogether, or just “ACA Reform” under some other name?

      • tagalog

        In my view, if the trade-off is going to be coverage for pre-existing conditions (I might add that I have pre-existing conditions – serious ones – so I personally have a dog in this fight), portability, and 37 million formerly uninsured against 15 million private policy holders getting cancelled, it’s not an issue for government intervention, where one of the pieces of fallout is permanent harm to the private health insurance market.

        There’s just not enough of a positive payoff to make such a thing attractive, and politicians should run from it as fast as they can.

        • WW4

          The private health insurance market, as we knew it, was due a reckoning even had there been no intervention of any kind. It was always on a collision course with those health care costs. Not to mention people’s expectations for what they get for the insurance that they work and pay for. Which is ultimately why I have a hard time visualizing political opposition to the ACA as being anything other than “here’s how we’ll tweak it–keep this, modify this, add this, get rid of this….”

          • tagalog

            Yes, but there’s a difference between being able to blame your employer for funding an inferior insurance policy, and trying to get better coverage through labor negotiations, and being covered by a government plan, where there’s no such recourse, and the attitude is “You’re lucky to be getting what you’re getting.”

      • Micha Elyi

        In order that voters not fall for single-payer, something better needs to be proposed.
        –WW4

        “Single-payer” means “single-denier”. You don’t seriously believe there’s such a thing as a free lunch, do you? This president’s preferred form of life-saving or function-restoring surgery is “take a pain pill”.

        Remember, the only alternative to the free market is the slave market. Your “last 30 years of Republican proposals” were little more than foolish RINO attempts to make the chains Democrats sought to forge rest a bit more lightly on you. Freedom, as troublesome as it is, is the only “something better” available.

        • WW4

          I agree about single payer, but it is hard to deny how attractive it would be politically, and not just for people looking for a “free lunch,” but for employers and providers. I don’t see it happening anytime soon, thankfully–but at some point, it will rear its head.

      • NAHALKIDES

        What needs to be proposed is free-market reforms such as ending State mandates, tort reform, ending the tax incentive for employer-provided insurance, etc.

        • WW4

          Well, those things need to be “packaged,” given a catchy name, and “sold” in a compelling fashion. Maybe a Paul Ryan-type.

          With people chafing at the ACA’s one-size-fits-all approach, people are going to be a lot more aware of what they stand to gain and lose.

  • patron

    I’m worried the political machine still will bribe and pack the polls next year. The last 6 years have shown Democratic voters care little about job performance or qualifications, instead voting based on ideology and self interest.

    • WW4

      I’ll be very interested to see the politics of it. So far, thanks to Ted Cruz, the Republicans have made a huge botch of what would otherwise be political gold. You can agree with Cruz, but don’t kid yourself that he won over anyone who wasn’t already with him.

      This (ACA) will be the big domestic issue in the next couple elections. And you’d better believe that by election time the Democrats are going to have as many “success” stories about the ACA as the Republicans will have “horror” stories. That’s just politics.

      Chances are they’ll iron out the computer problems by then, so the focus will be on the actual law, itself.

      If the 20% of voters who haven’t already made up their mind are paying more for insurance and getting less, by then, it will work in the GOP’s favor. But there are many problems for the GOP, too. First, you can’t just kvetch–you need to offer an alternative. Second, you can’t exactly root for people’s access to insurance to fail. So any outcome short of systemic meltdown due to ACA works in the Democrats’ favor, because Republican strategy was to allow Dems to take full ownership of this law. Even with flaws in the law’s implementation, the Democrats will look proactive when it came to “solving” the “problem.”

      • patron

        I think the typical Democratic voter cares little if their ideas succeed or fail.

        Many profiteer from Democrats winning elections. Most vote to reinforce their own insecurities.

        Democrats bait the GOP for a solution. The totalitarian left will respond with vicious hateful ads showing old people eating dog food and grandmas being thrown off cliffs regardless of what’s in it.

        So far Democrats have won by tagging and tracking people down, brainwashing them and stuffing them in the ballot box on election day after years of disgusting slanderous campaigns aimed at anyone who get’s in their way.

        Selecting a candidate whose actually passionate about winning the Presidency would be the first step.

        Second would be to attack the Democrats back. People like Obama, Axlerod, Rahm Emmanuel and Stephanie Cutter are not exactly Julius Caesar. Those spineless worms won’t even take on the coward criminals in Chicago. Strike them back and they’ll cry to mama.

        I used to think a third step would be to start local community improvement initiatives, but change like that has to start with the individual. People you’re helping would think you are a fool or a bother, and if you ever did get it to work some scumbag politician would come in and steal everything from you.

  • Mach1Duck

    Having worked in Software Development, I can tell you the best approach to correcting the multiple problems with the ACA site is to scrap it and start over. Digging through reams of code to correct one or multiple lines of code in a program this convoluted is a waste of time and our tax dollars.

    • T-Rex

      Our central government isn’t about efficient use of time or saving tax dollars. When there is no “bottom line” and the money can be forced out of the pockets of taxpayers the concept of efficiency and cost cutting is not a part of the equation. Implementing social justice is not something you skimp on.

      • objectivefactsmatter

        It’s about the fervent belief that the more power they have, the more “progress” they can deliver…at some point. It’s always an “investment” where they never disclose the risks or costs. Because…Darwinism or something. It must apply to government too! That’s what the Will to Power means essentially. If you survive and become the most powerful, you’re doing your duty for “progress” in mankind.

        And socialist scams are always Ponzi schemes on top of that.

    • Gee

      Yes it would be one answer – the better one would be scrap it and the law that created it

    • WW4

      I don’t doubt it. From what I understand, it’s not simply glitch in the code but the coding of the (huge) law, itself, that is causing the problems.

      • Vincent3Gray

        How come we`re still not allowed to openly discuss the GENOCIDAL mass immigration+assimilation imposed on EVERY white country and ONLY white countries?
        “Diversity” is a code word for Anti-white.

      • spyeatte

        Yes, as the complexity of the law increases, it gets to the point where the software becomes intractable. Included is the factors involved in interfacing with multiple federal agencies and you have a monster.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      It depends entirely on how well they documented their work. But it’s absolutely possible that you are correct. But there’s no way to know without taking a peak inside.

    • spinosaurus

      Digging through code is easy with profiling.

      The trouble is with interfacing with different information systems, 50 state Medicaid and Medicare systems, IRS to verify income, Social Security to verify identity, Post Office to verify address, and the dozens of different insurers for each state to run business rules and send data in proper formating.

      Plus all this is regulated by Congressional Federal Regulations. Companies who work with the government usually have to keep up with normal compliance, like ISO, SOX, Dodd-Frank and PCI DDS. With CFRs there’s fair bidding, and probably a ton more for federal IT procurement to ensure we are not using counterfeit chips from China which will explode at the CCP’s will, as well as software security standards issued by both defense (FISMA, DISA STIG) and nsa which most governments use instead of creating their own security policy. Add on top of that HIPAA, in no way can anyone create a sane system.

      The worst part of it all is that a system can comply to all these security requirements, yet still be taken down quite easily exploiting it directly, or exploiting one of the developer’s or admin’s systems. That’s not even going into the threat posed by an insider, like Bradley Manning/wikileaks, or some smellsack with a gun and a pipebomb.

  • http://www.clarespark.com/ Clare Spark

    I wish there was more attention to the mind-body problem and mental health in general. Nonconformity is still punished as it was in the 1930s. See http://clarespark.com/2010/11/29/index-to-lobotomy-blogs/. “Index to lobotomy blogs.” The outer and inner worlds are often ambiguous and difficult to penetrate. We don’t do lobotomies any longer, for there are subtler ways to keep us in line.

    • tagalog

      Actually, prefrontal lobotomies are still done, it’s just that they’re done less promiscuously.

  • Gee

    The government could have bought the health plans and given them to that number without building the website and saved money

    • BS77

      Excellent point. Read Ann Coulter’s hilarious and sharply crafted column this week concerning this Orwellian health care disaster.

  • ReasonOverStupidity

    Obama is the American Stalin.

  • NAHALKIDES

    I don’t see why Republicans aren’t more aggressive over this. Why aren’t they (Boehner, McConnell, etc.) explaining daily to the American people, “This is why we withheld funding of Obamacare – we were trying to save you. And now we call on the Democrats to agree to a full repeal of Obamacare in order to save more Americans from losing their health insurance, unless the power to rule Americans’ health-care decisions is more important to them.” They could really put the Democrats in a worse bind than they’re already in, if they only had the wits to do it.

    As for a one-year delay, I’m not sure that’s in Republicans’ interest. The goal must always be repeal, and nothing that relieves the pressure felt by Democrats should be agreed to except repeal or something that further cripples Obamacare. Although I agree that keeping Obamacare from completely destroying health insurance is a good idea, in the end we must keep the pressure up until we are free of this hideous power-grab.

    • WW4

      Right now there’s this whole “See? The website doesn’t work. Insurance companies are discontinuing plans. Therefore, the ACA should be repealed” formulation. It’s still 2013, we’re a month into the whole exchange model. Staking out the position you propose is a bad place to be if/when the website starts working, and people start picking up coverage. It only works if NOTHING good happens for anybody before elections.

      Republicans quite frankly need to take a page from Obama’s book: “Give them enough rope and….” “Why show them my birth certificate/college transcripts when we can watch them go absolutely crazy about it? Why tell them where I was during the Benghazi attacks when they can make an industry out of paranoid speculation?”

      You can see the problems with the ACA. You can see there are “hidden” costs. You can see that it barely, if at all, addresses the problem of health care costs. But if you don’t let it get to the point where people can see those things for themselves…and tell them it’s because you’re “saving” them, well….

      • NAHALKIDES

        I like your idea in theory. In practice, Republicans do not have the media as their propaganda arm the way Barry does. Therefore, they have to explain to voters why Obamacare is bad – that it is and always was a Democratic power-grab, and that Democrats don’t care about people but only about power. I think this last is critical: Conservatives care about people and Democrats don’t (Establishment Republicans don’t really care much more than Democrats do), and the GOP has to be perceived as the party that is concerned about the ordinary man.

        In other words, I don’t think it’s enough to allow Obamacare to fail of its own accord – the NHS in Britain is a miserable failure, and yet people still support it. Republicans need to make sure people understand what a big failure it is, and then they need to keep pointing out every day that it’s all the Democrats’ fault. The constant attack works, which is why the Democrats do it.

        • WW4

          I don’t like the idea of going the “here’s their “REAL intentions” route; that’s boilerplate. “Republicans don’t care about people; just profits” is the flipside of “Democrats are just after power.”

          To me, the pocketbook is where it’s at. Personal experience.

          What is going to happen when all these people join the Medicaid rolls? What is going to happen when all these people claim their subsidies?

          I suspect the democrats want to move toward single payer. This is dangerous, particularly when things are confusing. From the perspective of patients who deal with mountains of bills from everywhere, from doctors they’re not even sure they’ve met in person, single payer makes sense. For practitioners, who employ people just to navigate and input the various insurance companies and codes, it introduces cost savings and efficiency. So you see it is very tempting….

          …Until the money runs out. Until those practitioners find their compensation held back 1 or 2 years at a time. Until those patients find themselves waiting 4 months for a procedure.

          These are the things–the hidden cost in taxes, the fact that the ACA is a halfway measure designed to placate everyone that really doesn’t address health care costs–that need to be illuminated.

          • NAHALKIDES

            Ultimately, the only way to fight Leftism is to fight it at the ideological level – just arguing about their policies “not working” or being “too expensive” isn’t a strong enough attack or an exciting enough program in the rough-and-tumble of political warfare. It’s why Scott Walker very nearly had his head handed to him by the Wisconsin unions – he refused to attack them on moral grounds as he should have.

            And yes, of course the Democrats want single-payer – because they’re just after power.

  • Ellman48

    “When it comes to peoples’ healthcare, “almost” isn’t remotely good enough.”

    For government-sponsored programs “almost” is laudable and exceeding expectations as far as Democratic politicians and bureaucrats are concerned. People who work for or within the government have a simple motivation – maximum pay and benefits for least effort and stress. “Almost” is more than good enough. After all, there is no competition and there are no alternative providers!

  • ricpic

    About “putting Humpty Dumpty back together”…Obama doesn’t care. First off the con must continue and secondly reinstating an impossible reversal of the scrapped insurance plans amounts to details, stuff that’s below him, of no more concern than what cleanup crews did in every faculty lounge he and his fellow oblivious academics left littered and stale.

  • Ellman48

    “Someone less optimistic might find the minuscule level of actual signups
    compared to the browsers troubling, especially given the horrifying
    numbers of Americans losing their health insurance every day.”

    We need to remember that Liberals and Progressives are never discouraged by the ‘Facts’ when the facts don’t support their ideological positions or political/social agendas. If the actual results of their utopian policies make the latter indefensible then they will find other ‘facts’ which suit their narrative better. Or they will stand logic and common sense on their heads and argue that people losing their insurance policies is actually GOOD because it advances Obamacare’s ultimate goal of a single-payer system. You see, to these wing nuts the government is the giver of life and social justice, not the oppressor of liberties and scourge of opportunity and prosperity. So what we need, according to them, is more people on food stamps and fewer in jobs, and this is exactly what they are accomplishing.