Most Obamacare Enrollees Already Had Coverage

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Personal Liberty Poll

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Even as some Democrats and their apologists declare victory in the war of words over Obamacare, reports continue to emerge that reveal the law’s shortcomings.

A new survey by the McKinsey consulting company has found that only 26 percent of people who enrolled in a healthcare plan under the Affordable Care Act were without some form of insurance prior to their enrollment — a finding that lends perspective to the White House’s glowing self-assessment of the impact the President’s healthcare law.

McKinsey’s April survey, one in a series of periodic surveys assessing the progress of Obamacare, reflects a more-of-the-same pattern for Obamacare enrollees, with the vast majority of those who bought insurance through an online exchange reporting that they had healthcare coverage prior to last year:

  • Enrollment continued to grow — at the time of our April survey, 90 percent of the respondents who indicated that they had previously had coverage, and 13 percent of those who were previously uninsured,2 reported that they had enrolled in a plan. Of all respondents who reported having selected a new ACA plan at the time of the April survey (either on or off the exchanges), 26 percent reported being previously uninsured. This percentage is similar to the one we found in our February survey (27 percent).
  • Eighty-seven percent of all respondents who reported having selected a new 2014 ACA indicated that they had already paid their first premium. Reported payment rates were higher among those previously insured and those aged 30 or older. A slightly lower percentage of respondents (80 percent) reported that they definitely intend to pay future 2014 premiums; that intention was lower among those previously uninsured than among those previously insured (71 percent vs. 83 percent).
  • A higher percentage of those previously uninsured reported having shopped for a plan in our April survey than in our February survey (61 percent vs. 44 percent); however, the conversion rate — the percentage who said they had purchased a plan after shopping for one — remained much lower among the previously uninsured than among the previously insured (for example, 21 percent vs. 84 percent in April, and 23 percent vs. 71 percent in February).
  • As in earlier surveys, perceived affordability was the reason most often given for not enrolling by both previously insured and previously uninsured respondents. About 90 percent of all those citing perceived affordability challenges were subsidy-eligible, and among these subsidy-eligible respondents, awareness of the subsidies has remained low.

The Administration of President Barack Obama has recently celebrated the relatively high percentage of enrollees who actually appear to have followed through by paying their first premium. Yet it ignores most of the asterisks that shape the real meaning of that lone statistic.

The McKinsey report does not, noting that most people who aren’t signing up cite the unaffordability of the policies available and pointing out the redundancy of the Administration’s boast that Obamacare has extended health coverage to a wide swath of Americans who were previously uninsured. It turns out that 74 percent of those “new” enrollees are new only to Obamacare — but not to being covered under a health insurance plan.

And, as ever, government’s enticement of free stuff has played a crucial role in persuading those without any kind of insurance to buy in to Obamacare: “Among previously uninsured, subsidy-eligible respondents, those who indicated that they were aware of the subsidies were almost three times as likely to have reported enrolling as those who were unaware,” McKinsey observes.

The political takeaway is that Democrats know Obamacare will hurt them in the midterms and that the most efficacious way to handle the albatross around their necks is to declare victory — citing Republicans’ relative quiet on the law, of late, as evidence.

A more pragmatic view of the situation would be for Democrats to recognize that Obamacare is such a massive liability for their candidates in 2014 that their Republican opponents can take it for granted as a virtual voter-referendum issue. Many GOP candidates are intensely focused on their own party primaries, where consensus on Obamacare is a given. At the same time, those who can afford to look past the primary season have begun opening new fronts to attack their Democratic opponents on other issues.

As November approaches, though, expect more than a few Republicans to take Obamacare out of their back pocket — where it’s been safely kept ever since the law thudded out the gate in October of last year.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.