On Tuesday, President Obama triumphantly announced that, with the power of the mainstream media, Hollywood, and the threat of the IRS, the mission had been accomplished: 7.1 million Americans had selected an Obamacare plan.
Obama’s tone was nothing short of exuberant: “7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these market places. 7.1! Yep!” He then went on to criticize those who had expressed objections to Obamacare for its deprivations of plans, doctors, drugs, and liberty: “Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance?”
Now, it was always foolhardy for Republicans and conservatives to stake their objections to Obamacare on the number of sign-ups; Social Security is going bankrupt despite 100% enrollment. The reality is that Obama was always destined to hit his required numbers because, after all, he has the power of government to compel action. The real problem with Obamacare has little to do with the number of people signing up, and a lot to do with the restrictions on insurance companies and reimbursement rates to doctors.
Nonetheless, the 7.1 million statistic is a meaningless one. It’s meaningless for a variety of reasons:
It Doesn’t Measure How Many People Have Actually Paid. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted yesterday that of the 6 million people who had signed up for Obamacare at the time, “What we know from insurance companies…tell us that, for their initial customers, it’s somewhere between 80, 85, some say as high as 90 percent, have paid so far.” In other words, about five million people were signed up. As Aaron Blake of the Washington Post points out, “If between 80 and 90 percent of the six million have paid premiums, the number who are fully enrolled would be closer to five million than to six million.” With the increased number of sign-ups in the last days, that percentage number has likely dropped. This is not an unimportant distinction; insurance will not cover those who don’t pay.