Obamacare: 3.4 M Could Be the Real Sign-Up Number
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The Fiscal Times
March 13, 2014

The number of people actually gaining coverage under the president’s new health care law is likely around 3.4 million - or 800,000 fewer than the 4.2 million the White House says have signed up for Obamacare.

Politico reports that the country’s four largest insurance companies have provided the administration with data showing that between 15 and 20 percent of Obamacare enrollees have not paid for their premiums.

Related: 3 Questions We Need to Know About Obamacare

This is in line with other outside estimates that the administration has refused to confirm. Without payment, these people will not be getting covered through new health plans and should not be counted in the official enrollment figures.

The administration’s monthly report only includes the number of people who have selected a plan and does not give an accurate look at how the pool of enrollees is really shaping up.

If the adjusted numbers are accurate, enrollment is even further away from the White House’s goals. An internal memo sent in September, ahead of the disastrous rollout, showed that the administration wanted to have about 5.6 million people enrolled by the end of February.

Officials have insisted for months that they do not know how many enrollees have paid their premiums.

Related: Obamacare Enrollment Slows Ahead of Deadline

“They have a lot more information than they’re letting on,” one industry source told Politico. “They have real hard data about the percent that have paid …. If they have not processed those yet and compiled the data, that is a choice they are making. But they have that data now.”

This directly conflicts with statements made yesterday by Katherine Sebelius, head of HHS, at a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

When Republican lawmakers grilled her for not having this information, Sebelius said, “Consumers don’t pay us, they pay their insurance company. And we don’t have that information right now.”

She went on to say that a function of the website, which relays information from insurers to the federal government, is still being built, but until then, the administration won’t have that data. “We will when we have the fully automated financial system in place, but we don’t have it right now.”

That answer, however, did not satisfy several members of the committee.

“How can it be that the agency overseeing Obamacare cites an enrollment number and has no idea how many people have paid?” Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) asked.

CMS officials say that they are only getting an “aggregate-level” of data from insurance companies that is not a complete or reliable indicator of total enrollment.

Unsatisfied with the White House's incomplete data, lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce committee sent letters Thursday to insurers asking that they provide enrollment numbers. In the letter, lawmakers request that companies include the number of those who haven't paid in order to get a more "comprehensive picture of the health care law's enrollment."

This piece was updated on March 13, 2014 at 12:47 p.m.

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.