Obamacare’s Numbers Were Inflated

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 21 2014 @ 9:03am

The administration “erroneously” over-counted Obamacare enrollments by “incorrectly adding 380,000 dental subscribers to raise the total above 7 million.” Jonathan Cohn calls the error “inexcusable.” McArdle face palms:

Adding in a bunch of unrelated plans, with all the attendant risk of being exposed and embarrassed, seems flatly insane. In fact, this is the most compelling reason to believe that it was a mistake. If it was a mistake, however, I’m not sure how much better that is supposed to make us feel. For the administration to have this poor a handle on its own data while attempting to make over almost one-fifth of the U.S. economy is a lot more frightening than some rather pedestrian lies.

Jordan Weissmann puts the news in context:

380,000 sounds like a large number, and it did conveniently push Obamacare’s enrollment figures over the Congressional Budget Office’s projection of 7 million sign-ups. However, 380,000 also only amounts to 5.6 percent of the real tally, and the 7 million figure was never particularly meaningful to begin with (nothing particularly magical happened if Obamacare reached that milestone, and nothing tragic will happen because the program missed it). And, as Charles Gaba of ACASignups.net told Bloomberg, even with the lower total, Obamacare’s attrition rate was still in line with what experts like him predicted. This new news shouldn’t especially change anybody’s opinion about whether the exchanges have succeeded or not.

But Suderman recalls that, at “the end of the first open enrollment period, the administration repeatedly touted its success at getting 8 million sign-ups during the first year”:

What the new figures reveal, then, is the fragility and instability of that initial figure. Not only did the number of enrollments continue to drop during and after the summer, the figure wasn’t as high as reported in post-open-enrollment updates. This is probably at least one reason why enrollment targets for the second enrollment period were recently slashed by about 50 percent.

And Erik Wemple points out how “the pursuit of Obamacare data is a dicey matter for health-care reporters”:

Following the October 2013 launch of the dysfunctional HealthCare.gov, determining enrollment numbers called on investigative journalism skills. As the numbers improved, so did the willingness of HHS to dish them out. And even as states furnish all kinds of health-care metrics, HHS just cannot provide a compelling explanation as to why it cannot provide running enrollment figures.