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Under the Affordable Care Act, are the uninsured getting insured?

January 24, 2014 J

By Wesley Coopersmith

President Obama promised his new signature legislation would extend health insurance coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. Almost four years after he signed it into law, we see that his wishful thinking did not become reality. Under ObamaCare, millions of Americans still remain uninsured. It’s quickly becoming apparent that the law doesn’t even do what the President promised it would do.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration claimed to have brought health insurance coverage to six million Americans as a result of the new healthcare law, but this doesn’t turn out to the be true. The Washington Post’s political fact checker gave this claim three Pinocchios.

Of the six million individuals cited, 2 of every 3 people have received coverage through Medicaid. While an increase in Medicare enrolment was expected, due to a number of states expending eligibility under the new law, more than half of the enrollees cited in the month of November came from states that did not expand Medicaid.

In fact, Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics estimated that only 190,000 to 380,000 individuals signed up for Medicaid as a direct result of the new law. Many of these individuals already qualified for Medicaid prior to the law, but signed up recently due to intense advertising flowing from the White House. The rest were simply part of the “normal” enrollees, the likes of who sign up every month, regardless of the new healthcare law.

But even if we could attribute these “new enrollees” to ObamaCare, should the President consider expanding Medicaid a victory for the uninsured? Expanding an entitlement program, such as Medicaid, is not real reform, particularly when the entitlement program isn’t very successful in improving people’s health. According to a famous 2008 study in Oregon, Medicaid expansion shows no significant improvements in health outcomes and significantly stresses medical resources by increasing trips to the emergency room.

Let’s take a look at the other 2.1 million individuals who signed up for health insurance via the federal and state exchanges. Multiple surveys, including ones conducted by the Wall Street Journal and McKinsey & Co, have recently discovered up to 89% of exchange enrollees were previously insured. The majority of these individuals either had their plans cancelled by employers or were covered under plans the new healthcare law made illegal. This inconvenient statistic led PolitiFact to declare the President’s you like your health care plan, you can keep it promise their official Lie of the Year.

To date, the number of individuals who previously were uninsured and now have health insurance either through Medicaid expansion or the exchanges, totals around a half million. The Congressional Office Budget had originally estimated that by March of this year 16 million uninsured individuals would be insured. Even with the remaining nine weeks of signups to go, an increase from 500,000 to 16 million is wishful thinking.

The President promised that his healthcare law would do many things, chief among them provide health insurance for those uninsured. This appears to be yet another broken promise. $1.3 trillion over the next ten years is a steep price to pay on a healthcare law filled with broken promises. Now on its second year of implementation, things appear to only be getting worse.

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