Did Sebelius Lie to Congress About Obamacare Pay-ups?
Policy + Politics

Did Sebelius Lie to Congress About Obamacare Pay-ups?

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

The White House and Health and Human Services have been given data about how many of the 4.2 million Obamacare enrollees have actually paid their first premiums, insurers say. 

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

Administration officials have insisted for months that they do not know how many enrollees have paid their premiums. At least four major insurance companies, however, say they have provided the White House with that information, Politico reports.

Related: 3 Questions We Need to Know About Obamacare

The administration’s official numbers include everyone who has selected a plan on the state or federal exchanges. However, insurers say they have notified the Department of Health and Human Services that about 15 to 20 percent of enrollees have not paid for their policies - a metric the White House says it does not measure. This is in line with other outside estimates that the administration has refused to confirm.

That would put total enrollment around 3.3 to 3.4 million. That means upwards of 840,000 people that the administration is counting in its official enrollment numbers aren’t actually covered through Obamacare.

These adjusted numbers would mean the White House is even further from its original goal of signing up 7 million people in the new exchanges before the March 31 deadline. It also means that the administration is withholding important (and unflattering) information from the public.

“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.”

Related:  Obamacare Enrollment Slows Ahead of Deadline 

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

Politico’s report comes on the heels of a congressional hearing Tuesday, where Republican lawmakers took turns grilling HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for failing to provide the number of enrollees who have paid.

“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.

Sebelius shot back at the lawmaker, saying insurers were the ones collecting that information, adding that the administration does not have it.

“This is not Medicare or Medicaid sir, it’s a private plan. People are buying a product in the private market,” Sebelius said. “Consumers don’t pay us, they pay their insurance company, and we don’t have that information right now.”

She said 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,” Sebelius explained.

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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